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Braz J Med Biol Res. 2003 Jan;36(1):113-8.

Induction of liver monooxygenases by annatto and bixin in female rats.

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Laboratório de Toxicologia Ambiental, Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brasil.


Annatto or urucum is an orange-yellow dye obtained from Bixa orellana seeds. It has been used as a natural dye in a variety of food products, drugs and cosmetics, and also in Brazilian cuisine as a condiment ('colorau'). Bixin, a carotenoid devoid of provitamin A activity, is the main pigment found in annatto. Some carotenoids (canthaxanthin, astaxanthin and beta-Apo-8'-carotenal) are known to be potent inducers of CYP1A1, a property not shared by others (beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein). Little is known, however, about the CYP1A1-inducing properties of bixin and annatto. The present study was performed to determine the effects of an annatto extract (28% bixin) and bixin (95% pure) on rat liver monooxygenases. Adult female Wistar rats were treated by gavage with daily doses of annatto (250 mg/kg body weight, which contains approximately 70 mg bixin/kg body weight), bixin (250 mg/kg body weight) or the vehicle only (corn oil, 3.75 g/kg body weight) for 5 consecutive days, or were not treated (untreated control). The activities of aniline-4-hydroxylase (A4H), ethoxycoumarin-O-deethylase (ECOD), ethoxy- (EROD), methoxy- (MROD), pentoxy- (PROD) and benzyloxy- (BROD) resorufin-O-dealkylases were measured in liver microsomes. Annatto (250 mg/kg containing 70 mg bixin/kg) induced EROD (3.8x), MROD (4.2x), BROD (3.3x) and PROD (2.4x). Bixin (250 mg/kg) was a weaker inducer of EROD (2.7x), MROD (2.3x) and BROD (1.9x) and did not alter PROD, A4H or ECOD activities. These results suggest that constituents of the extract other than bixin play an important role in the induction of CYP1A and CYP2B observed with annatto food colorings.

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