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Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2010 Jun 1;245(2):143-52. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2010.02.002. Epub 2010 Feb 6.

Silymarin modulates doxorubicin-induced oxidative stress, Bcl-xL and p53 expression while preventing apoptotic and necrotic cell death in the liver.

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Molecular Toxicology Laboratories, Division of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Arnold & Marie Schwartz College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Long Island University, Brooklyn, NY 11201, USA.


The emergence of silymarin (SMN) as a natural remedy for liver diseases, coupled with its entry into NIH clinical trial, signifies its hepatoprotective potential. SMN is noted for its ability to interfere with apoptotic signaling while acting as an antioxidant. This in vivo study was designed to explore the hepatotoxic potential of Doxorubicin (Dox), the well-known cardiotoxin, and in particular whether pre-exposures to SMN can prevent hepatotoxicity by reducing Dox-induced free radical mediated oxidative stress, by modulating expression of apoptotic signaling proteins like Bcl-xL, and by minimizing liver cell death occurring by apoptosis or necrosis. Groups of male ICR mice included Control, Dox alone, SMN alone, and Dox with SMN pre/co-treatment. Control and Dox groups received saline i.p. for 14 days. SMN was administered p.o. for 14 days at 16 mg/kg/day. An approximate LD(50) dose of Dox, 60 mg/kg, was administered i.p. on day 12 to animals receiving saline or SMN. Animals were euthanized 48 h later. Dox alone induced frank liver injury (>50-fold increase in serum ALT) and oxidative stress (>20-fold increase in malondialdehyde [MDA]), as well as direct damage to DNA (>15-fold increase in DNA fragmentation). Coincident genomic damage and oxidative stress influenced genomic stability, reflected in increased PARP activity and p53 expression. Decreases in Bcl-xL protein coupled with enhanced accumulation of cytochrome c in the cytosol accompanied elevated indexes of apoptotic and necrotic cell death. Significantly, SMN exposure reduced Dox hepatotoxicity and associated apoptotic and necrotic cell death. The effects of SMN on Dox were broad, including the ability to modulate changes in both Bcl-xL and p53 expression. In animals treated with SMN, tissue Bcl-xL expression exceeded control values after Dox treatment. Taken together, these results demonstrated that SMN (i) reduced, delayed onset, or prevented toxic effects of Dox which are typically associated with hydroxyl radical production, (ii) performed as an antioxidant limiting oxidative stress, (iii) protected the integrity of the genome, and (iv) antagonized apoptotic and necrotic cell death while increasing antiapoptotic Bcl-xL protein levels and minimizing the leakage of proapoptotic cytochrome c from liver mitochondria. These observations demonstrate the protective actions of SMN in liver, and raise the possibility that such protection may extend to other organs during Dox treatment including the heart.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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