Two 4-week repeated-dose toxicity studies were conducted to evaluate the potential toxicity of l-cysteine and d-cysteine. In one study, three groups of 6 male rats were each administered l-cysteine once daily by gavage at doses of 500, 1,000, or 2,000 mg/kg/day for 28 consecutive days. The control group was administered a 0.5% methylcellulose vehicle solution. The other study followed a similar protocol except that the experimental groups received d-cysteine. Toxicological observations showed that the l-cysteine-treated groups exhibited renal injuries such as basophilic tubules with eosinophilic material in the lumen, and there were increased numbers of basophilic tubules in all treated groups. In 1,000 or 2,000 mg/kg/day-treated groups, salivation and necropsy findings indicative of focal erosion in the stomach mucosa were found. Increases in reticulocyte counts were observed in the 2,000 mg/kg/day-treated group. Toxicological findings obtained for the d-cysteine-treated groups included anemia and renal injuries such as basophilic tubules with eosinophilic material in the lumen, increased numbers of basophilic tubules, and crystal deposition in the medulla in the 2,000 mg/kg/day-treated group. Additional findings included sperm granuloma in the epididymis, necropsy findings suggestive of focal erosion in the stomach mucosa, and salivation in the 1,000 or 2,000 mg/kg/day-treated groups. One rat in the 2,000 mg/kg/day-treated group died due to renal failure. In conclusion, the no-observed-adverse-effect levels (NOAELs) were estimated to be less than 500 mg/kg/day for l-cysteine and 500 mg/kg/day for d-cysteine under our study conditions. The toxicological profiles were similar for l-cysteine and d-cysteine; however, there were slight differences in the dose responses. The mechanisms underlying these differences remain to be determined.
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