Synergistic toxicity of epigallocatechin-3-gallate and diethyldithiocarbamate, a lethal encounter involving redox-active copper

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Dithiocarbamates (DTC) are widely used in agricultural, industrial and therapeutic domains. There are ample opportunities for human exposure to DTC. Green tea extracts, with epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) being the most abundant constituent, have been used as dietary supplements for body weight reduction. Our hypothesis is that DTC can act as a copper ionophore to increase hepatic levels of redox-active copper which promotes EGCG auto-oxidation to produce oxidative stress and toxicity. The results of the present study in a mouse model is consistent with this hypothesis, showing that co-administration of EGCG and diethyldithiocarbamate – a metabolite of disulfiram (a drug for alcohol aversion therapy), both at tolerable levels, caused lethality. The liver was the major organ site of toxicity. The co-administration drastically increased lipid peroxidation, DNA damage and cell apoptosis as well as caused deleterious transcriptional responses including basal and Nrf2 antioxidant systems in the liver. The results suggest that exposure to DTC reduces toxic threshold of dietary polyphenols from green tea and possibly other plants, and vice versa. This novel hypothesis is important to human health, and the dose-response relationship of this synergistic toxicity needs to be further characterized.

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