Silybin and related flavonolignans form a major part of the Silybum marianum extract, silymarin, which has been used to treat liver diseases for hundreds of years. Although regarded as safe, many of the extract constituents remain thus far untested for their possible effects on liver biotransformation enzymes. Cytochromes P450 (CYP) are very important in this regard. We tested the effect of four flavonolignans: silybin, its hemisynthetic derivative dehydrosilybin, silydianin, and silycristin on three specific CYP activities: bufuralol 1'-hydroxylation (CYP2D6), p-nitrophenol hydroxylation (CYP2E1), and nifedipine oxidation (CYP3A4). All flavonolignans displayed dose-dependent inhibition of these activities with IC(50) values in the micromolar range. The inhibition was competitive or mixed as revealed by double reciprocal plots of kinetic experiments. However, the inhibition is not considered to be relevant for therapy because physiological concentrations of the individual flavonolignans do not exceed 0.5 microM. The data support the use of the extract as a dietary supplement.
Copyright 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.