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Toxicol Sci. 2011 Oct;123(2):374-83. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfr197. Epub 2011 Jul 29.

Role of tissue metabolite accumulation in the renal toxicity of diethylene glycol.

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Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Neuroscience, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Shreveport, Louisiana 71130-3932, USA.


Misuse of diethylene glycol (DEG) has led to numerous epidemic poisonings worldwide. DEG produces toxicity because of its metabolism, although the mechanism of its toxicity has not been further defined. The purpose of this study was to investigate the accumulation of specific metabolites in blood and target organ tissues and to determine the relationship between tissue accumulation of metabolites and the resulting toxicity. Wistar rats were treated with water, 2 g/kg DEG (low dose), 10 g/kg DEG (high dose), or 10 g/kg DEG + fomepizole (15 mg/kg then 10 mg/kg per 12 h, to inhibit DEG metabolism), and blood and tissue samples were collected up to 48 h. After high doses of DEG, 2-hydroxyethoxyacetic acid (HEAA) was the primary metabolite in the blood (∼4 mmol/l), with only low concentrations of diglycolic acid (DGA) (∼0.04 mmol/l). In contrast, renal and hepatic concentrations of DGA and of HEAA at 48 h were similar (∼4 mmol/l), indicating a 100-fold concentrative uptake of DGA by kidney tissue. Treatment with fomepizole blocked the formation of HEAA and DGA and the kidney toxicity. Both HEAA and DGA concentrations in the kidney correlated strongly with the degree of kidney damage. Accumulation of HEAA in blood correlated with increased anion gap and decreased blood bicarbonate so appeared responsible for the DEG-induced acidosis. Although these studies suggest that either metabolite may be involved in producing kidney toxicity, the unexpected renal accumulation of DGA at toxic doses of DEG suggests that it must also be considered a possible toxic metabolite of DEG.

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