Pyrrolizidine alkaloid-induced alterations of prostanoid synthesis in human endothelial cells
Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA) are a group of secondary plant metabolites belonging to the most widely distributed natural toxins. PA intoxication of humans leads to severe liver damage, such as hepatomegaly, hepatic necrosis, fibrosis and cirrhosis. An acute consequence observed after ingestion of high amounts of PA is veno-occlusive disease (VOD) where the hepatic sinusoidal endothelial cells are affected. However, the mechanisms leading to VOD after PA intoxication remain predominantly unknown. Thus, we investigated PA-induced molecular effects on human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC). We compared the effects of PA with the effects of PA metabolites obtained by in vitro metabolism using liver homogenate (S9 fraction). In vitro-metabolized lasiocarpine and senecionine resulted in significant cytotoxic effects in HUVEC starting at 300 μM. Initial molecular effect screening using a PCR array with genes associated with endothelial cell biology showed PA-induced upregulation of the Fas receptor, which is involved in extrinsic apoptosis, and regulation of a number of interleukins, as well as of different enzymes relevant for prostanoid synthesis. Modulation of prostanoid synthesis was subsequently studied at the mRNA and protein levels and verified by increased release of prostaglandin I ₂ as the main prostanoid of endothelial cells. All effects occurred only with in vitro-metabolically activated PA lasiocarpine and senecionine. By contrast, no effect was observed for the PA echimidine, heliotrine, lasiocarpine, senecionine, senkirkine and platyphylline in the absence of an external metabolizing system up to the highest tested concentration of 500 μM. Overall, our results confirm the metabolism-dependent toxification of PA and elucidate the involved pathways. These include induction of inflammatory cytokines and deregulation of the prostanoid synthesis pathway in endothelial cells, linking for the first time PA-dependent changes in prostanoid release to distinct alterations at the mRNA and protein levels of enzymes of prostanoid synthesis.