, Volume 226, Issue 3, pp 639-646
Date: 12 May 2007

Occurrence of “mammalian” lignans in plant and water sources

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Enterolignans, also called “mammalian” lignans because they are formed in the intestine of mammals after ingestion of plant lignans, were identified for the first time in extracts of four tree species, i.e., in knot heartwood of the hardwood species Fagus sylvatica and in knot or stem heartwood of the softwood species Araucaria angustifolia, Picea smithiana, and Abies cilicia. They were also identified for the first time in grain extracts of cultivated plants, i.e., in 15 cereal species, in 3 nut species, and in sesame and linseeds. Furthermore, some plant lignans and enterolignans were identified in extracts of water from different sources, i.e., in sewage treatment plant influent and effluent and in humic water, and for the first time also in tap and seawater. They were present also in water processed through a water purification system (ultrapure water). As enterolignans seem to be abundant in the aquatic environment, the occurrence of enterolignans in plant sources is most likely due to uptake by the roots from the surrounding water. This uptake was also shown experimentally by treating wheat (Triticum aestivum ssp. vulgare) seeds with purified lignan-free water spiked with enterolactone (EL) during germination and growth. Both the remaining seeds and seedlings contained high EL levels, especially the roots. They also contained metabolites of EL, i.e., 7-hydroxy-EL and 7-oxo-EL.