Toxicology letters

Photoirradiation of dehydropyrrolizidine alkaloids--formation of reactive oxygen species and induction of lipid peroxidation.

PMID 21723383


Pyrrolizidine alkaloid (PA)-containing plants are widespread in the world and are probably the most common poisonous plants affecting livestock, wildlife, and human. PAs require metabolic activation to generate pyrrolic metabolites (dehydro-PAs) that bind cellular protein and DNA, leading to hepatotoxicity and genotoxicity, including tumorigenicity. In this study we report that UVA photoirradiation of a series of dehydro-PAs, e.g., dehydromonocrotaline, dehydroriddelliine, dehydroretrorsine, dehydrosenecionine, dehydroseneciphylline, dehydrolasiocarpine, dehydroheliotrine, and dehydroretronecine (DHR) at 0-70 J/cm2 in the presence of a lipid, methyl linoleate, resulted in lipid peroxidation in a light dose-responsive manner. When irradiated in the presence of sodium azide, the level of lipid peroxidation decreased; lipid peroxidation was enhanced when methanol was replaced by deuterated methanol. These results suggest that singlet oxygen is a photo-induced product. When irradiated in the presence of superoxide dismutase, the level of lipid peroxidation decreased, indicating that lipid peroxidation is also mediated by superoxide. Electron spin resonance (ESR) spin trapping studies confirmed that both singlet oxygen and superoxide anion radical were formed during photoirradiation. These results indicate that UVA photoirradiation of dehydro-PAs generates reactive oxygen species (ROS) that mediated the initiation of lipid peroxidation. UVA irradiation of the parent PAs and other PA metabolites, including PA N-oxides, under similar experimental conditions did not produce lipid peroxidation. It is known that PAs induce skin cancer and are secondary (hepatogenous) photosensitization agents. Our results suggest that dehydro-PAs are the active metabolites responsible for skin cancer formation and PA-induced secondary photosensitization.