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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1985 Jul;50(1):10-5.

Metabolism of the benzidine-based azo dye Direct Black 38 by human intestinal microbiota.


Benzidine-based azo dyes are proven mutagens and have been linked to bladder cancer. Previous studies have indicated that their initial reduction is the result of the azo reductase activity of the intestinal microbiota. Metabolism of the benzidine-based dye Direct Black 38 was examined by using a semicontinuous culture system that simulates the lumen of the human large intestine. The system was inoculated with freshly voided feces, and an active flora was maintained as evidenced by volatile fatty acid and gas production. Within 7 days after exposure to the dye, the following metabolites were isolated and identified by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry:benzidine, 4-aminobiphenyl, monoacetylbenzidine, and acetylaminobiphenyl. Benzidine reached its peak level after 24 h, accounting for 39.1% of the added dye. Its level began to decline, and by day 7 the predominant metabolite was acetylaminobiphenyl, which accounted for 51.1% of the parent compound. Formation of the deaminated and N-acetylated analogs of benzidine, which have enhanced mutagenicity and lipophilicity, previously has not been attributed to the intestinal microbiota.

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