Archives of Toxicology

, Volume 85, Issue 10, pp 1201–1208

Absorption and metabolism of the food contaminant 3-chloro-1,2-propanediol (3-MCPD) and its fatty acid esters by human intestinal Caco-2 cells

  • Thorsten Buhrke
  • Rüdiger Weißhaar
  • Alfonso Lampen
Toxicokinetics and Metabolism

DOI: 10.1007/s00204-011-0657-6

Cite this article as:
Buhrke, T., Weißhaar, R. & Lampen, A. Arch Toxicol (2011) 85: 1201. doi:10.1007/s00204-011-0657-6


3-Chloro-1,2-propanediol (3-MCPD) fatty acid esters are formed upon thermal processing of fat-containing foods in the presence of chloride ions. Upon hydrolytic cleavage, these substances could release free 3-MCPD. This compound is toxicologically well characterised and displayed cancerogenic potential in rodent models. Recently, serious contaminations of different food products with 3-MCPD fatty acid esters have been reported. In regard to a risk assessment, the key question is to which degree these 3-MCPD fatty acid esters are hydrolysed in the human gut. Therefore, the aim of the present project was to examine the hydrolysis of 3-MCPD fatty acid esters and the resulting release of free 3-MCPD by using differentiated Caco-2 cells, a cellular in vitro model for the human intestinal barrier. Here, we show that 3-MCPD fatty acid esters at a concentration of 100 μM were neither absorbed by the cells nor the esters were transported via a Caco-2 monolayer. 3-MCPD-1-monoesters were hydrolysed in the presence of Caco-2 cells. In contrast, a 3-MCPD-1,2-diester used in this study was obviously absorbed and metabolised by the cells. Free 3-MCPD was not absorbed by the cells, but the substance migrated through a Caco-2 monolayer by paracellular diffusion. From these in vitro studies, we conclude that 3-MCPD-1-monoesters are likely to be hydrolysed in the human intestine, thereby increasing the burden with free 3-MCPD. In contrast, intestinal cells seem to have the capacity to metabolise 3-MCPD diesters, thereby detoxifying the 3-MCPD moiety.


3-MCPD 3-MCPD fatty acid ester Food contaminant Risk assessment Caco-2 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thorsten Buhrke
    • 1
  • Rüdiger Weißhaar
    • 2
  • Alfonso Lampen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Food SafetyFederal Institute For Risk AssessmentBerlinGermany
  2. 2.CVUA StuttgartFellbachGermany

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