The prooxidant effect of sodium metabisulfite in rat liver and kidney

Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2005 Jun;42(1):77-82. doi: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2005.01.010. Epub 2005 Mar 2.


Sodium metabisulfite (Na2S2O5) is used as an antioxidant and antimicrobial agent in a variety of drugs and functions as a preservative in many food preparations. In addition to their antioxidant activity, sulfites oxidize to sulfite radicals (SO3-) initiating lipid peroxidation. This study was performed to elucidate the effect of subchronic Na2S2O5 (520 mg/kg/day) ingestion on hepatic and renal antioxidant enzyme activities and lipid peroxidation in albino rats. The antioxidant effect of l-carnitine was also tested in rats treated with Na2S2O5. Plasma uric acid levels were monitored in all rats included in the study. Malondialdehyde (MDA) levels significantly increased in Na2S2O5 treated rats vs. controls, with kidney values of 2.21+/-0.21 vs. 1.22+/-0.35 and liver values of 79.85+/-19.5 vs. 31.36+/-5.0 nmol/mg protein, respectively. Selenium-glutathione peroxidase (GPx) activity was significantly increased in Na2S2O5 treated rats vs. controls, with kidney values of 38.22+/-2.21 vs. 8.09+/-0.76 and liver values of 31.11+/-6.37 vs. 11.70+/-1.02 U/g protein, respectively. Sodium metabisulfite treatment increased plasma uric acid levels in rats that were included in the study. No protective effect of l-carnitine was observed against lipid peroxidation in both liver and kidneys of rats treated with Na2S2O5. The presented data confirm the prooxidant activity of sulfites and suggest that increased GPx activity and plasma uric acid levels may partially reduce the observed renal and hepatocellular oxidative damage caused via the ingestion of sulfites.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carnitine / pharmacology
  • Glutathione Peroxidase / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Kidney / chemistry
  • Kidney / drug effects*
  • Kidney / enzymology
  • Lipid Peroxidation / drug effects
  • Lipid Peroxidation / physiology
  • Liver / chemistry
  • Liver / drug effects*
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Malondialdehyde / chemistry
  • Malondialdehyde / metabolism
  • Oxidants / chemistry
  • Oxidants / metabolism
  • Oxidants / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sulfites / metabolism
  • Sulfites / pharmacology*
  • Uric Acid / blood


  • Oxidants
  • Sulfites
  • Uric Acid
  • sodium metabisulfite
  • Malondialdehyde
  • Glutathione Peroxidase
  • selenium-independent glutathione peroxidase
  • Carnitine