Complex interactions between dietary and genetic factors impact lycopene metabolism and distribution

Nancy E. Moran, John W. Erdman, Steven K. Clinton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Intake of lycopene, a red, tetraterpene carotenoid found in tomatoes is epidemiologically associated with a decreased risk of chronic disease processes, and lycopene has demonstrated bioactivity in numerous in vitro and animal models. However, our understanding of absorption, tissue distribution, and biological impact in humans remains very limited. Lycopene absorption is strongly impacted by dietary composition, especially the amount of fat. Concentrations of circulating lycopene in lipoproteins may be further influenced by a number of variations in genes related to lipid absorption and metabolism. Lycopene is not uniformly distributed among tissues, with adipose, liver, and blood being the major body pools, while the testes, adrenals, and liver have the greatest concentrations compared to other organs. Tissue concentrations of lycopene are likely dictated by expression of and genetic variation in lipoprotein receptors, cholesterol transporters, and carotenoid metabolizing enzymes, thus impacting lycopene accumulation at target sites of action. The novel application of genetic evaluation in concert with lycopene tracers will allow determination of which genes and polymorphisms define individual lycopene metabolic phenotypes, response to dietary variables, and ultimately determine biological and clinical outcomes. A better understanding of the relationship between diet, genetics, and lycopene distribution will provide necessary information to interpret epidemiological findings more accurately and to design effective, personalized clinical nutritional interventions addressing hypotheses regarding health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-180
Number of pages10
JournalArchives of Biochemistry and Biophysics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2013


  • Bioavailability
  • Biodistribution
  • Genetics
  • Lycopene
  • Pharmacokinetics
  • Tissue accumulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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