Biotransformation of zearalenone and zearalenols to their major glucuronide metabolites reduces estrogenic activity

Caroline Frizzell, Silvio Uhlig, Christopher O. Miles, Steven Verhaegen, Christopher T. Elliott, Gunnar S. Eriksen, Morten Sorlie, Erik Ropstad, Lisa Connolly

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45 Citations (Scopus)


Zearalenone (ZEN) is a mycotoxin produced by Fusarium fungi. Once ingested, ZEN may be absorbed andmetabolised to a- and b-zearalenol (a-ZOL, b-ZOL), and to a lesser extent a- and b-zearalanol (a-ZAL,b-ZAL). Further biotransformation to glucuronide conjugates also occurs to facilitate the elimination ofthese toxins from the body. Unlike ZEN and its metabolites, information regarding the estrogenic activityof these glucuronide conjugates in various tissues is lacking. ZEN-14-O-glucuronide, a-ZOL-14-O-glucuronide,a-ZOL-7-O-glucuronide, b-ZOL-14-O-glucuronide and b-ZOL-16-O-glucuronide, previouslyobtained as the major products from preparative enzymatic synthesis, were investigated for their potentialto cause endocrine disruption through interference with estrogen receptor transcriptional activity.All five glucuronide conjugates showed a very weak agonist response in an estrogen responsive reportergene assay (RGA), with activity ranging from 0.0001% to 0.01% of that of 17b-estradiol, and also lessthan that of ZEN, a-ZOL and b-ZOL which have previously shown estrogenic potencies of the order 17bestradiol> a-ZOL > ZEN > b-ZOL. Confirmatory mass spectrometry revealed that any activity observedwas likely a result of minor deconjugation of the glucuronide moiety. This study confirms that formationof ZEN and ZOL glucuronides is a detoxification reaction with regard to estrogenicity, serving as a potentialhost defence mechanism against ZEN-induced estrogenic activity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)575-581
Number of pages7
JournalToxicology in Vitro
Issue number3
Early online date30 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015


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