Safrole-2',3'-oxide induces cytotoxic and genotoxic effects in HepG2 cells and in mice

Su yin Chiang*, Pei yi Lee, Ming tsung Lai, Li ching Shen, Wen-Sheng Chung, Hui fen Huang, Kuen yuh Wu, Hsiu ching Wu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Safrole-2',3'-oxide (SAFO) is a reactive electrophilic metabolite of the hepatocarcinogen safrole, the main component of sassafras oil. Safrole occurs naturally in a variety of spices and herbs, including the commonly used Chinese medicine Xi xin (Asari Radix et Rhizoma) and Dong quai (Angelica sinensis). SAFO is the most mutagenic metabolite of safrole tested in the Ames test. However, little or no data are available on the genotoxicity of SAFO in mammalian systems. In this study, we investigated the cytotoxicity and genotoxicity of SAFO in human HepG2 cells and male FVB mice. Using MTT assay, SAFO exhibited a dose- and time-dependent cytotoxic effect in HepG2 cells with TC 50 values of 361.9μM and 193.2μM after 24 and 48h exposure, respectively. In addition, treatment with SAFO at doses of 125μM and higher for 24h in HepG2 cells resulted in a 5.1-79.6-fold increase in mean Comet tail moment by the alkaline Comet assay and a 2.6-7.8-fold increase in the frequency of micronucleated binucleated cells by the cytokinesis-block micronucleus assay. Furthermore, repeated intraperitoneal administration of SAFO (15, 30, 45, and 60mg/kg) to mice every other day for a total of twelve doses caused a significant dose-dependent increase in mean Comet tail moment in peripheral blood leukocytes (13.3-43.4-fold) and in the frequency of micronucleated reticulocytes (1.5-5.8-fold). Repeated administration of SAFO (60mg/kg) to mice caused liver lesions manifested as a rim of ballooning degeneration of hepatocytes immediately surrounding the central vein. Our data clearly demonstrate that SAFO significantly induced cytotoxicity, DNA strand breaks, micronuclei formation both in human cells in vitro and in mice. More studies are needed to explore the role SAFO plays in safrole-induced genotoxicity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)234-241
Number of pages8
JournalMutation Research - Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis
Issue number2
StatePublished - 24 Dec 2011


  • Comet assay
  • Genotoxicity
  • HepG2 cells
  • Micronucleus test
  • Peripheral blood
  • Safrole-2',3'-oxide


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