Green tea polyphenol (−)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate triggered hepatotoxicity in mice: Responses of major antioxidant enzymes and the Nrf2 rescue pathway

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(−)-Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a constituent of green tea, has been suggested to have numerous health-promoting effects. On the other hand, high-dose EGCG is able to evoke hepatotoxicity. In the present study, we elucidated the responses of hepatic major antioxidant enzymes and nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) rescue pathway to high-dose levels of EGCG in Kunming mice. At a non-lethal toxic dose (75 mg/kg, i.p.), repeated EGCG treatments markedly decreased the levels of superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase. As a rescue response, the nuclear distribution of Nrf2 was significantly increased; a battery of Nrf2-target genes, including heme oxygenase 1 (HO1), NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1), glutathione S-transferase (GST), and those involved in glutathione and thioredoxin systems, were all up-regulated. At the maximum tolerated dose (45 mg/kg, i.p.), repeated EGCG treatments did not disturb the major antioxidant defense. Among the above-mentioned genes, only HO1, NQO1, and GST genes were significantly but modestly up-regulated, suggesting a comprehensive and extensive activation of Nrf2-target genes principally occurs at toxic levels of EGCG. At a lethal dose (200 mg/kg, i.p.), a single EGCG treatment dramatically decreased not only the major antioxidant defense but also the Nrf2-target genes, demonstrating that toxic levels of EGCG are able to cause a biphasic response of Nrf2. Overall, the mechanism of EGCG-triggered hepatotoxicity involves suppression of major antioxidant enzymes, and the Nrf2 rescue pathway plays a vital role for counteracting EGCG toxicity.HighlightsEGCG at maximum tolerated dose does not disturb hepatic major antioxidant defense.EGCG at maximum tolerated dose modestly upregulates hepatic Nrf2 target genes.EGCG at toxic dose suppresses hepatic major antioxidant enzymes.EGCG at non-lethal toxic dose pronouncedly activates hepatic Nrf2 rescue response.EGCG at lethal dose substantially suppresses hepatic Nrf2 pathway.

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