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Hepatology. 1984 Nov-Dec;4(6):1153-8.

The hepatotoxicity of valproic acid and its metabolites in rats. II. Intermediary and valproic acid metabolism.


The role of metabolites in valproic acid (VPA)-associated hepatotoxicity was studied in rats. The most steatogenic mono-unsaturated metabolite, 4-en-VPA, caused the greatest changes in indicators of beta-oxidation inhibition (dicarboxylic aciduria, beta-hydroxybutyrate reduction); however, the biochemical effects were much less pronounced than those reported for hypoglycin. Steatosis in VPA-treated rats occurred only at nearly lethal doses. Phenobarbital induction was confirmed as a predisposing factor; however, it appeared not to greatly enhance production of 4-en-VPA or its recognized metabolites, which collectively comprised only 0.5% of the dose. Elevated oxo-VPA metabolites in serum and 2-propylglutarate in liver were associated with toxicity. Among the newly discovered minor metabolites with possible biologic effects were diols (suggesting epoxide precursors) and a series of dienes and trienes. The rarity of severe human hepatotoxicity indicates that, normally, beta-oxidation inhibition is compensated, and cellular defense mechanisms prevail over reactive metabolites. This requires adequate nutrition; on the other hand, severe glycogen depletion may promote toxicity by compromising glucuronidation, the major clearance route. Other literature comments are also supported: (i) caution is indicated for patients with various unusual congenital disorders (e.g., organic acidurias or other mitochondrial defects), and (ii) monotherapy obviates both the predisposition to toxicity and the requirement of large doses to produce therapeutic levels.

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