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Many assays aimed to test the inhibitory effects of synthetic molecules, and naturally occurring products on the neuraminidase activity exploit the hydrolysis of 2'-O-(4-methylumbelliferyl)-N-acetylneuraminic acid (4-MUNANA). The amount of the released product, 4-methylumbelliferone (4-MU), is then measured fluorimetrically. The authors attempted an analysis of the inhibitory properties of 35 naturally occurring flavonoids on neuraminidase N3, where only 29 of them were sufficiently soluble in the assay medium. During the analysis, the authors noticed a strong quenching effect due to the test compounds on the fluorescence of 4-MU. The quenching constants for the flavonoids were determined according to the Stern-Volmer approach. The extent of fluorescence reduction due to quenching and the magnitude of the fluorescence reduction measured in the inhibition assays were comparable: for 11 of 29 compounds, the two values were found to be coincident within the experimental uncertainty. These data were statistically analyzed for correlation by calculating the pertinent Pearson correlation coefficient. Inhibition and quenching were found to be positively correlated (r = 0.71, p(uncorr) = 1.5 × 10(-5)), and the correlation was maintained for the whole set of tested compounds. Altogether, the collected data imply that all of the tested flavonoids could produce false-positive results in the neuraminidase inhibition assay using 4-MUNANA as a substrate.


Jarinrat Kongkamnerd, Adelaide Milani, Giovanni Cattoli, Calogero Terregino, Ilaria Capua, Luca Beneduce, Andrea Gallotta, Paolo Pengo, Giorgio Fassina, Orawan Monthakantirat, Kaoru Umehara, Wanchai De-Eknamkul, Stanislav Miertus. The quenching effect of flavonoids on 4-methylumbelliferone, a potential pitfall in fluorimetric neuraminidase inhibition assays. Journal of biomolecular screening. 2011 Aug;16(7):755-64

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PMID: 21636741

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