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Chem Res Toxicol. 2001 Nov;14(11):1546-51.

Screening botanical extracts for quinoid metabolites.

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Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy, College of Pharmacy, University of Illinois at Chicago, 833 South Wood Street, Chicago, IL 60612-7231, USA.


Botanical dietary supplements represent a significant share of the growing market for alternative medicine in the USA, where current regulations do not require assessment of their safety. To help ensure the safety of such products, an in vitro assay using pulsed ultrafiltration and LC-MS-MS has been developed to screen botanical extracts for the formation of electrophilic and potentially toxic quinoid species upon bioactivation by hepatic cytochromes P450. Rat liver microsomes were trapped in a flow-through chamber by an ultrafiltration membrane, and samples containing botanical extracts, GSH and NADP(H), were flow-injected into the chamber. Botanical compounds that were metabolized to reactive intermediates formed stable GSH adducts mimicking a common in vivo detoxification pathway. If present in the ultrafiltrate, GSH conjugates were detected using LC-MS-MS with precursor ion scanning followed by additional characterization using product ion scanning and comparison to standard compounds. As expected, no GSH adducts of reactive metabolites were found in extracts of Trifolium pratense L. (red clover), which are under investigation as botanical dietary supplements for the management of menopause. However, extracts of Sassafras albidum (Nutt.) Nees (sassafras), Symphytum officinale L. (comfrey), and Rosmarinus officinalis L. (rosemary), all of which are known to contain compounds that are either carcinogenic or toxic to mammals, produced GSH adducts during this screening assay. Several compounds that formed GSH conjugates including novel metabolites of rosmarinic acid were identified using database searching and additional LC-MS-MS studies. This assay should be useful as a preliminary toxicity screen during the development of botanical dietary supplements. A positive test suggests that additional toxicological studies are warranted before human consumption of a botanical product.

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