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Mycotoxin Res. 2013 Aug;29(3):177-83. doi: 10.1007/s12550-013-0165-z. Epub 2013 Apr 5.

Catechol metabolites of the mycotoxin zearalenone are poor substrates but potent inhibitors of catechol-O-methyltransferase.

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  • 1Institute of Applied Biosciences, Unit of Food Toxicology, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Karlsruhe, Germany.


The mycotoxin zearalenone (ZEN) elicits estrogenic effects and is biotransformed to two catechol metabolites, in analogy to the endogenous steroidal estrogen 17ß-estradiol (E2). Previous studies have shown that the catechol metabolites of ZEN have about the same potency to induce oxidative DNA damage as the catechol metabolites of E2, but are less efficiently converted to their methyl ethers by human hepatic catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT). Here, we report that the two catechol metabolites of ZEN, i.e. 13-hydroxy-ZEN and 15-hydroxy-ZEN, are not only poor substrates of human COMT but are also able to strongly inhibit the O-methylation of 2-hydroxy-E2, the major catechol metabolite of E2. 15-Hydroxy-ZEN acts as a non-competitive inhibitor and is about ten times more potent than 13-hydroxy-ZEN, which is an uncompetitive inhibitor of COMT. The catechol metabolites of ZEN were also shown to inhibit the O-methylation of 2-hydroxy-E2 by hepatic COMT from mouse, rat, steer and piglet, although to a lesser extent than observed with human COMT. The powerful inhibitory effect of catechol metabolites of ZEN on COMT may have implications for the tumorigenic activity of E2, because catechol metabolites of E2 elicit genotoxic effects, and their impaired O-methylation may increase the tumorigenicity of steroidal estrogens.

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