Glutathione depletion and cytotoxicity by naphthalene 1,2-oxide in isolated hepatocytes

Michael Buonarati, Dexter Morin, Charles Plopper, Alan R Buckpitt

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The ability of naphthalene 1,2-oxide to diffuse across intact cellular membranes, the subsequent biotransformation of this epoxide and its potential to produce losses in cellular viability have been examined in incubations of isolated hepatocytes. Addition of 1R,2S- or 1S,2R-naphthalene oxide enantiomers (15, 30 and 60 μM) to isolated hepatocytes resulted in a rapid depletion of intracellular glutathione. Depletion of glutathione was concentration dependent and maximal at 5-15 min. Addition of either of the enantiomeric oxides at 60 μM resulted in the loss of more than 20 nmol glutathione/106 cells (1 ml cells); thus more than a third of the added epoxide was available for conjugation with intracellular glutathione. The time course and concentration dependence of glutathione depletion corresponded to the rapid, concentration-dependent formation of naphthalene oxide glutathione conjugates. The levels of glutathione adduct were highest 1 min after addition of naphthalene oxide and declined to 25% of this level after 30 min. Loss of glutathione conjugates from incubations correlated with the formation of N-acetylcysteine adducts. In contrast, the levels of glutathione adducts added exogenously to hepatocytes were relatively stable over a 120min incubation suggesting that although further metabolism of naphthalene oxide glutathione adducts formed intracellularly is possible, extracellular glutathione adducts cannot penetrate the hepatocellular membrane. Small amounts of radiolabel from [3H]naphthalene 1,2-oxide were bound covalently to macromolecules in hepatocytes; the rate of this binding slowed rapidly after the first minute of incubation. Severe blebbing of the surface of the hepatocytes was noted in cells incubated for 30 min with 480 μM naphthalene oxide. Many of the cells were vacuolated at 60 min and progressed to frank necrosis with pyknotic nuclei and inability to exclude trypan blue. Cells incubated with 1-naphthol responded in a qualitatively similar fashion to those cells incubated with epoxide; however, hepatocytes incubated with 1-naphthol progressed to frank cellular necrosis at a slower rate. In hepatocytes partially depleted of glutathione by pretreatment with buthionine sulfoximine, addition of 1S,2R-naphthalene oxide at a rate of 1 nmol/min/106 cells resulted in significant losses in cell viability. In contrast, no losses in cell viability were observed with the enantiomer, 1R,2S-naphthalene oxide. Both epoxides produced similar losses in cellular glutathione levels. The differences noted in cytotoxicity of the epoxide enantiomers might be related to differences in the rate of epoxide hydrolase catalyzed dihydrodiol formation, since substantially more diol was produced from the 1R,2S-epoxide than the 1S,2R-enantiomer. These studies indicate that naphthalene oxide is sufficiently stable to diffuse into hepatocytes, that the epoxide produces cytotoxicity more rapidly and at lower concentrations than 1-naphthol and that there are differences in cytotoxic potential of the enantiomeric epoxides which do not appear to be solely related to the extent of glutathione depletion. Finally, naphthalene oxide glutathione adducts are further metabolized to mercapturic acids in hepatocytes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-165
Number of pages19
JournalChemico-Biological Interactions
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 1989


  • 1-Naphthol
  • Cytotoxicity
  • Diffusion
  • Epoxide
  • Glutathione
  • Naphthalene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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