The influence of Zn on the acute hepatotoxicity of pyrroiizidine alkaloids (PAs) was determined in male rats. Zinc, 72 µmol/kg as ZnCl2, was administered ip for 3 consecutive days, followed 16 h after the last dose by a single ip injection of purified mixed PAs (80, 120, or 160 mg/kg) obtained from tansy ragwort (Senecio jacobaea). Hepatotoxicity of the PAs was assessed by measuring the activities of plasma glutamic-oxaloacetic transaminase (GOT) and glutamic-pyruvic transaminase (GPT) and by histological examination of the liver. There was a dose-dependent increase in plasma GOT and GPT 24 h after PA administration, whereas no significant increase of these enzymes was seen after administering Zn alone. The 7-foid increase in plasma GOT and 12-fold increase in GPT after PA (120 mg/kg) were reduced to 2.4- and 2.1-fold, respectively, by Zn pretreatment. The PA-induced liver necrosis was either reudced in severity or abolished by Zn when the PA dose was 80 or 120 mg/kg. These results suggest a protective effect of Zn against PA hepatotoxicity. The protective effect was associated with a marked increase in liver metallothionein and a significant decrease in hepatic cytochrome P-450 content, aminopyrine N-demethyiase activity, and in vitro microsomal conversion of the PAs to pyrroles. Liver nonprotein suifhydryis were unchanged. The possible role of metallothionein in the sequestration of pyrrole metabolites merits further investigation.
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