Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) have been found in over 6000 plants worldwide and represent the most common hepatotoxic phytotoxins. Currently, a definitive diagnostic method for PA-induced liver injury (PA-ILI) is lacking. In the present study, using a newly developed analytical method, we identified four pyrrole-amino acid adducts (PAAAs), namely pyrrole-7-cysteine, pyrrole-9-cysteine, pyrrole-9-histidine, and pyrrole-7-acetylcysteine, which are generated from reactive pyrrolic metabolites of PAs, in the urine of PA-treated male Sprague Dawley rats and PA-ILI patients. The elimination profiles, abundance, and persistence of PAAAs were systematically investigated first in PA-treated rat models via oral administration of retrorsine at a single dose of 40 mg/kg and multiple doses of 5 mg/kg/day for 14 consecutive days, confirming that these urinary excreted PAAAs were derived specifically from PA exposure. Moreover, we determined that these PAAAs were detected in ~ 82% (129/158) of urine samples collected from ~ 91% (58/64) of PA-ILI patients with pyrrole-7-cysteine and pyrrole-9-histidine detectable in urine samples collected at 3 months or longer times after hospital admission, indicating adequate persistence time for use as a clinical test. As direct evidence of PA exposure, we propose that PAAAs can be used as a biomarker of PA exposure and the measurement of urinary PAAAs could be used as a non-invasive test assisting the definitive diagnosis of PA-ILI in patients.
Scopus Subject Areas
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
- Pyrrole-amino acid adducts
- Pyrrolizidine alkaloids-induced liver injury