Chemico-biological interactions

Mitochondrial dysfunction and biotransformation of β-carboline alkaloids, harmine and harmaline, on isolated rat hepatocytes.

PMID 20833158


The cytotoxic effects and biotransformation of harmine and harmaline, which are known β-carboline alkaloids and potent hallucinogens, were studied in freshly isolated rat hepatocytes. The exposure of hepatocytes to harmine caused not only concentration (0-0.50mM)- and time (0-3h)-dependent cell death accompanied by the formation of cell blebs and the loss of cellular ATP, reduced glutathione, and protein thiols but also the accumulation of glutathione disulfide. Of the other analogues examined, the cytotoxic effects of harmaline and harmol (a metabolite of harmine) at a concentration of 0.5mM were less than those of harmine. The loss of mitochondrial membrane potential and generation of oxygen radical species in hepatocytes treated with harmine were greater than those with harmaline and harmol. In the oxygen consumption of mitochondria isolated from rat liver, the ratios of state-3/state-4 respiration of these β-carbolines were decreased in a concentration-dependent manner. In addition, harmine resulted in the induction of the mitochondrial permeability transition (MPT), and the effects of harmol and harmaline were less than those of harmine. At a weakly toxic level of harmine (0.25mM), it was metabolized to harmol and its monoglucuronide and monosulfate conjugates, and the amounts of sulfate rather than glucuronide predominantly increased with time. In the presence of 2,5-dichloro-4-nitrophenol (50μM; an inhibitor of sulfotransferase), harmine-induced cytotoxicity was enhanced, accompanied by decrease in the amount of harmol-sulfate conjugate, due to an increase in the amount of unconjugated harmol and the inhibition of harmine loss. Taken collectively, these results indicate that (a) mitochondria are target organelles for harmine, which elicits cytotoxicity through mitochondrial failure related to the induction of the MPT, mitochondrial depolarization, and inhibition of ATP synthesis; and (b) the toxic effects of harmine are greater than those of either its metabolite harmol or its analogue harmaline, suggesting that the onset of harmine-induced cytotoxicity may depend on the initial and/or residual concentrations of harmine rather than on those of its metabolites.

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Harmaline, ≥95%