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Toxicology. 1988 Nov 14;52(1-2):165-75.

Prevention of acetaminophen-induced hepatotoxicity by dimethyl sulfoxide.

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  • 1Division of Pharmacology and Toxicology, College of Pharmacy, University of Texas, Austin 78712-1074.


Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) has previously been shown to protect against acetaminophen (APAP)-induced hepatotoxicity, but the mechanism of this effect was not clear. Treatment of mice with 1 mg/kg DMSO 4 h before 250 mg/kg APAP resulted in significantly less hepatotoxicity than with APAP alone, as measured by serum glutamic pyruvic transaminase (SGPT) content 24 h after APAP. Protection was also evident when 1 ml/kg DMSO was given 4, but not 8 h after 250 mg/kg APAP. The APAP-induced depletion of liver glutathione was prevented in mice pretreated with DMSO, although DMSO alone had no effect on liver glutathione levels. The hepatic concentration of cytochrome P-450 (P450) 4 h after treatment of mice with 1 ml/kg DMSO, was significantly decreased compared to saline-treated animals. However, while this DMSO pretreatment significantly decreased the activity of cytochrome P-450-linked aminopyrine-N-demethylase, it increased the activity of aniline hydroxylase. Covalent binding of [14C]APAP to hepatic protein in vivo was significantly decreased in mice pretreated with DMSO. Covalent binding of [14C]APAP to hepatic microsomal protein in vitro was not significantly altered after in vivo treatment with DMSO. However, the presence of DMSO in the in vitro incubation mixture significantly decreased covalent binding of [14C]APAP in a dose-dependent manner compared to microsomal fractions from untreated, saline-treated or DMSO pretreated animals. These data suggest that the DMSO-induced alterations in cytochrome P-450 content and activity may not be the cause of the observed protective action of this chemical. The ability to competitively inhibit APAP bioactivation or to directly scavenge free radicals produced during APAP metabolism, including the activated species which covalently binds to protein, may account for the hepatoprotection afforded by DMSO.

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