Modulatory role of betulinic acid in N-nitrosodimethylamine-induced hepatorenal toxicity in male Wistar rats
N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) is a toxicant found in foods and drinking water. Several synthetic agents used in alleviation of NDMA toxicity have been associated with serious side effects. Therefore, a safe and less toxic agent is desirable. In this study, betulinic acid (BA), a triterpenoid antioxidant, is proposed as a better and alternative agent to modulate NDMA-induced toxicity. Twenty-four Wistar rats were assigned into four groups of six rats each and treated with normal saline (control), BA (25 mg/kg), NDMA (5 mg/kg) and (BA + NDMA). BA was given by oral gavage for 14 consecutive days, while NDMA was administered intraperitoneally on days 7 and 12. Results showed that administration of NDMA significantly (p < 0.05) elevated the activities of serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase and gamma-glutamyl transferase by 51%, 48% and 81%, respectively. Also, NDMA intoxication significantly (p < 0.05) increased the levels of serum urea and creatinine by 64% and 82%, respectively, and decreased urinary creatinine by 67%. In addition, administration of NDMA significantly (p < 0.05) increased the levels of hepatic and renal DNA fragmentation by 44% and 61%, respectively, relative to control. The number of micronucleated polychromatic erythrocytes (mnPCEs) in NDMA-treated rats (11.1 ± 2.6 mnPCE/1000PCE) was significantly higher than control (4.3 ± 1.1 mnPCE/1000 PCE). Immunohistochemistry revealed strong expressions of Bcl-2 and nuclear p53 in NDMA-intoxicated rats. Interestingly, pretreatment with BA significantly (p < 0.05) ameliorated NDMA-induced changes in serum biochemical indices, mnPCEs, DNA fragmentation and expressions of Bcl-2 and p53 proteins. These findings suggest that BA protects against NDMA-induced toxicity via anti-oxidative and anti-apoptotic activities.