Kava extract, an herbal alternative for anxiety relief, potentiates acetaminophen-induced cytotoxicity in rat hepatic cells

Division of Systems Biology, National Center for Toxicological Research, Food and Drug Administration, 3900 NCTR Road, Jefferson, AR 72079, USA.
Phytomedicine: international journal of phytotherapy and phytopharmacology (Impact Factor: 3.13). 03/2011; 18(7):592-600. DOI: 10.1016/j.phymed.2011.02.006
Source: PubMed


The widely used over-the-counter analgesic acetaminophen (APAP) is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States and due to this high incidence, a recent FDA Advisory Board recommended lowering the maximum dose of APAP. Kava herbal dietary supplements have been implicated in several human liver failure cases leading to the ban of kava-containing products in several Western countries. In the US, the FDA has issued warnings about the potential adverse effects of kava, but kava dietary supplements are still available to consumers. In this study, we tested the potential of kava extract to potentiate APAP-induced hepatocyte cytotoxicity. In rat primary hepatocytes, co-treatment with kava and APAP caused 100% loss of cell viability, while the treatment of kava or APAP alone caused ∼50% and ∼30% loss of cell viability, respectively. APAP-induced glutathione (GSH) depletion was also potentiated by kava. Co-exposure to kava decreased cellular ATP concentrations, increased the formation of reactive oxygen species, and caused mitochondrial damage as indicated by a decrease in mitochondrial membrane potential. In addition, similar findings were obtained from a cultured rat liver cell line, clone-9. These observations indicate that kava potentiates APAP-induced cytotoxicity by increasing the magnitude of GSH depletion, resulting in oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction, ultimately leading to cell death. These results highlight the potential for drug-dietary supplement interactions even with widely used over-the-counter drugs.

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    ABSTRACT: Extracts from medicinal plants, many of which have been used for centuries, are increasingly tested in models of hepatotoxicity. One of the most popular models to evaluate the hepatoprotective potential of natural products is acetaminophen (APAP)-induced liver injury, although other hepatotoxicity models such as carbon tetrachloride, thioacetamide, ethanol and endotoxin are occasionally used. APAP overdose is a clinically relevant model of drug-induced liver injury. Critical mechanisms and signaling pathways, which trigger necrotic cell death and sterile inflammation, are discussed. Although there is increasing understanding of the pathophysiology of APAP-induced liver injury, the mechanism is complex and prone to misinterpretation, especially when unknown chemicals such as plant extracts are tested. This review discusses the fundamental aspects that need to be considered when using this model, such as selection of the animal species or in vitro system, timing and dose-responses of signaling events, metabolic activation and protein adduct formation, the role of lipid peroxidation and apoptotic versus necrotic cell death, and the impact of the ensuing sterile inflammatory response. The goal is to enable researchers to select the appropriate model and experimental conditions for testing of natural products that will yield clinically relevant results and allow valid interpretations of the pharmacological mechanisms.
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    ABSTRACT: Anxiolytic kava products have been associated with rare but severe hepatotoxicity in humans. This adverse potential has never been captured in animal models and the responsible compound(s) remains to be determined. The lack of such knowledge greatly hinders the preparation of a safer kava product and limits its beneficial applications. In this study we evaluated the toxicity of kava as a single entity or in combination with acetaminophen (APAP) in C57BL/6 mice. Kava alone revealed no adverse effects for long-term usage even at a dose of 500 mg/kg bodyweight. On the contrary a three-day kava pre-treatment potentiated APAP-induced hepatotoxicity, resulted in an increase in serum ALT and AST and increased severity of liver lesions. Chalcone-based flavokawains A (FKA) and B (FKB) in kava recapitulated its hepatotoxic synergism with APAP while dihydromethysticin (DHM, a representative kavalactone and a potential lung cancer chemopreventive agent) had no such effect. These results, for the first time, demonstrate the hepatotoxic risk of kava and its chalcone-based FKA and FKB in vivo and suggest that herb-drug interaction may account for the rare hepatotoxicity associated with anxiolytic kava usage in humans.
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