Larrea tridentata (Moc & Sess) Cov. (Zygophyllaceae) is an ethnobotanically important plant found in the American Southwest and northern Mexico. Although numerous beneficial effects have been attributed to this plant, several case reports have demonstrated high doses of Larrea-containing herbals induce hepatotoxicity and nephrotoxicity in humans. Nordihydriguaiaretic acid (NDGA) is a lignan found in high amounts (up to 10% by dry weight) in the leaves and twigs of L. tridentata. Previously, NDGA has been shown to induce cystic nephropathy in the rat, however, no reports have been made concerning this compound's hepatotoxic potential. Here, we report that intraperitoneal adminstration of NDGA is lethal in the mouse (LD50=75mg/kg). Administration is associated with a time and dose-dependent increase in serum alanine aminotransferase levels, which suggest liver damage. Indeed, freshly isolated mouse hepatocytes are more sensitive to NDGA than human melanoma cells. Furthermore, we have identified glucuronidation as a potential detoxification mechanism for NDGA. Both mono and diglucuronide conjugates of NDGA are formed after intravenous dosing. The monoglucuronide is also formed after incubation of NDGA with human hepatic microsomes; suggesting that glucuronide conjugation is important in the metabolism of NDGA by humans. In summary, this report indicates that NDGA may contribute to the hepatotoxicity of L. tridentata and provides preliminary information on NDGA metabolism.
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