Species differences in the hepatic microsomal enzyme metabolism of the pyrrolizidine alkaloids

Jian Ya Huan, Cristobal L. Miranda, Donald R. Buhler, Peter R. Cheeke

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76 Scopus citations


Species differences in pyrrolic metabolites and senecionine (SN) N-oxide formation among eight animal species (sheep, cattle, gerbils, rabbits, hamsters, Japanese quail, chickens, rats) varying in susceptibility to pyrrolizidine alkaloid (PA) intoxication were measured in vitro by hepatic microsomal incubations. The results suggested that there is not a strong correlation between the production of pyrrolic metabolites and susceptibility of animals to PA toxicity. The rate of PA activation in hamsters, a resistant species, measured by formation of (±)6,7-dihydro-7-hydroxy-1-hydroxymethyl-5H-pyrrolizine (DHP) far exceeded the rate of SN N-oxide formation (detoxification) (DHP/N-oxide=2.29). In contrast, SN N-oxide was the major metabolite in sheep, another resistant species, with much lower production of DHP (DHP/N-oxide=0.26). The roles of cytochrome P450s and flavin-containing monooxygenases (FMO) in bioactivation and detoxification of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA) were studied in vitro using sheep and hamster hepatic microsomes. Chemical and immunochemical inhibition data suggested that the conversion of SN to DHP is catalyzed mainly by cytochrome P450s (68-82%), whereas the formation of SN N-oxide is carried out largely by FMO (55-71%). There also appeared to be a high rate of glutathione-DHP conjugation in hamster (63%) and sheep (79%) liver microsomal incubation mixtures. Therefore, low rates of pyrrole metabolite production coupled with glutathione conjugation in sheep may explain the resistance of sheep to SN, whereas the high rate of GSH-DHP conjugation may be one of the factors contributing to the resistance of hamsters to intoxication by this PA. Copyright (C) 1998 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-137
Number of pages11
JournalToxicology Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 15 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Cytochrome P450s
  • Flavin-containing monooxygenases
  • Glutathione conjugation
  • Pyrrolizidine alkaloids
  • Species

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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