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Drug Metab Rev. 2004 Feb;36(1):1-55.

Pyrrolizidine alkaloids--genotoxicity, metabolism enzymes, metabolic activation, and mechanisms.

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  • 1National Center for Toxicological Research, Jefferson, Arkansas 72079, USA.


Pyrrolizidine alkaloid-containing plants are widely distributed in the world and are probably the most common poisonous plants affecting livestock, wildlife, and humans. Because of their abundance and potent toxicities, the mechanisms by which pyrrolizidine alkaloids induce genotoxicities, particularly carcinogenicity, were extensively studied for several decades but not exclusively elucidated until recently. To date, the pyrrolizidine alkaloid-induced genotoxicities were revealed to be elicited by the hepatic metabolism of these naturally occurring toxins. In this review, we present updated information on the metabolism, metabolizing enzymes, and the mechanisms by which pyrrolizidine alkaloids exert genotoxicity and tumorigenicity.

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