Protection Against Microcystin-LR-Induced Hepatotoxicity by Silymarin: Biochemistry, Histopathology, and Lethality


Microcystin-LR, a cyclic heptapeptide synthesized by the blue-green algae, Microcystis aeruginosa, is a potent hepatotoxin. Pathological examination of livers from mice and rats that received microcystin-LR revealed severe, peracute, diffuse, centrilobular hepatocellular necrosis, and hemorrhage. These changes were correlated with increased serum activities of sorbitol dehydrogenase, alanine aminotransferase, and lactate dehydrogenase. Pretreatment of either rats or mice with a single dose of silymarin, a flavonolignane isolated from the wild artichoke (Silybum marianum L. Gaertn), completely abolished the lethal effects, pathological changes, and significantly decreased the levels of serum enzymes induced by microcystin-LR intoxication.

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Correspondence to Kay A. Mereish.

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Mereish, K.A., Bunner, D.L., Ragland, D.R. et al. Protection Against Microcystin-LR-Induced Hepatotoxicity by Silymarin: Biochemistry, Histopathology, and Lethality. Pharm Res 8, 273–277 (1991).

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  • alanine aminotransferase
  • flavonoid
  • hepatic necrosis
  • hepatotoxin
  • lactate dehydrogenase
  • microcystin-LR
  • silymarin
  • sorbitol dehydrogenase