Archives of toxicology

Effect of cytochrome P450 inhibitors and anticonvulsants on the acute toxicity of acrylonitrile.

PMID 15864551


Some of the more striking expressions of toxicity are the tremors and seizures observed approximately 100 min after exposure of rats to an acutely toxic dose of acrylonitrile (AN). These early events are followed by a second wave of severe clonic convulsions that occur just prior to death at about 3-4 h. For AN, at least two chemical entities could produce these toxic effects, namely the parent AN molecule, the metabolically-released cyanide, or both. Which of these two agents is responsible for each of the symptoms of acute intoxication is not known. To help dissect the toxicity, it was anticipated that an effective inhibitor of the oxidative metabolism of AN to cyanide could help us to understand which toxic symptoms might be associated with each agent. Three inhibitors of oxidative metabolism were tested, namely SKF-525A, 1-benzylimidazole and metyrapone and one alternative substrate, ethanol. As compared to SKF-525A and metyrapone, both 1-benzylimidazole and ethanol were highly effective in reducing blood cyanide levels to insignificant levels in rats treated with an LD90 dose of AN. In addition, both agents abolished the early seizure activity, suggesting that this first phase of seizures is due to cyanide and not the parent molecule. 1-Benzylimidazole did not prevent the severe clonic convulsive phase preceding death, suggesting that these terminal convulsions are due to the toxic effects of the parent AN molecule. The CNS depressant ethanol was only partially effective in attenuating the terminal convulsions. None of these agents affected the incidence of AN-induced mortality, clearly establishing that, even in the absence of cyanide, the parent AN molecule is acutely toxic. The partial effectiveness of ethanol suggested that anticonvulsants might be of benefit. Both phenobarbital and phenytoin protected rats from both the early and terminal convulsions, while valproic acid was ineffective. These effects were not related to a reduction in blood cyanide levels but rather due to their inherent anticonvulsant activity.

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1-Benzylimidazole, 99%