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Drug Metab Dispos. 2001 Dec;29(12):1567-77.

Metabolism of (R)-(+)-pulegone in F344 rats.

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  • 1Laboratory of Pharmacology and Chemistry, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709, USA.


(R)-(+)-Pulegone, a monoterpene ketone, is a major component of pennyroyal oil. Ingestion of high doses of pennyroyal oil has caused severe toxicity and occasionally death. Studies have shown that metabolites of pulegone were responsible for the toxicity. Previous metabolism studies have used high, near lethal doses and isolation and analysis techniques that may cause degradation of some metabolites. To clarify these issues and further explore the metabolic pathways, a study of (14)C-labeled pulegone in F344 rats at doses from 0.8 to 80 mg/kg has been conducted. High-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) analysis of the collected urine showed the metabolism of pulegone to be extensive and complex. Fourteen metabolites were isolated by HPLC and characterized by NMR, UV, and mass spectroscopy. The results demonstrated that pulegone was metabolized by three major pathways: 1) hydroxylation to give monohydroxylated pulegones, followed by glucuronidation or further metabolism; 2) reduction of the carbon-carbon double bond to give diastereomeric menthone/isomenthone, followed by hydroxylation and glucuronidation; and 3) Michael addition of glutathione to pulegone, followed by further metabolism to give diastereomeric 8-(N-acetylcystein-S-yl)menthone/isomenthone. This 1,4-addition not only took place in vivo but also in vitro under catalysis of glutathione S-transferase or mild base. Several hydroxylated products of the two mercapturic acids were also observed. Contrary to the previous study, all but one of the major metabolites characterized in the present study are phase II metabolites, and most of the metabolites in free forms are structurally different from those previously identified phase I metabolites.

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