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Mutat Res. 1986 Mar;169(3):93-103.

Characterization of bacterial mutagenicity mediated by 13-hydroxy-ent-kaurenoic acid (steviol) and several structurally-related derivatives and evaluation of potential to induce glutathione S-transferase in mice.


Stevioside is a sweet-tasting diterpene glycoside that is derived from Stevia rebaudiana (Bertoni) Bertoni (Compositae). It is used commercially in Japan and other parts of the world as a sucrose substitute. Whereas stevioside demonstrates no mutagenic activity in a variety of test systems, the aglycone, steviol (13-hydroxy-ent-kaurenoic acid), is mutagenic toward Salmonella typhimurium strain TM677 in the presence of a metabolic activating system derived from the liver of Aroclor 1254-pretreated rats. The required activating component is localized in the microsomal fraction of rat liver, suggestive of a cytochrome P-450-mediated reaction. Partially purified epoxide hydrolase does not inhibit steviol-induced mutagenicity, indicating that an active metabolite is not an epoxide that serves as a substrate for this enzyme preparation. The 13-hydroxy group of steviol is required for the expression of mutagenicity since ent-kaurenoic acid is nonmutagenic, and acetylation of steviol at this position negates mutagenicity. Similarly, diterpenes bearing a strong structural resemblance to steviol, cafestol and kahweol, were found to demonstrate no mutagenic activity toward Salmonella typhimurium TM677, as were their respective acetates and palmitic acid esters. Conversely, 19-O-beta-D-glucopyranosyl steviol, a potential hydrolysis product of stevioside, is mutagenic and bactericidal in the presence of a metabolic activating system. Additionally, in contrast to the nonmutagenic diterpenes cafestol and kahweol that are effective as inducers of glutathione S-transferase activity, evaluation by administration to mice proved steviol, isosteviol and various steviol glycosides to be inactive in this process. Thus, structural differences among these naturally occurring and semi-synthetic diterpenes appear to impart major differences in biological activity that may relate to human health upon dietary ingestion.

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