Two flavonolignans from milk thistle (Silybum marianum) inhibit CYP2C9-mediated warfarin metabolism at clinically achievable concentrations

J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2010 Mar;332(3):1081-7. doi: 10.1124/jpet.109.161927. Epub 2009 Nov 24.


Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a popular herbal product used for hepatoprotection and chemoprevention. Two commercially available formulations are the crude extract, silymarin, and the semipurified product, silibinin. Silymarin consists of at least seven flavonolignans, of which the most prevalent are the diastereoisomers silybin A and silybin B; silibinin consists only of silybin A and silybin B. Based on a recent clinical study showing an interaction between a silymarin product and the CYP2C9 substrate losartan, the CYP2C9 inhibition properties of silybin A and silybin B and corresponding regioisomers, isosilybin A and isosilybin B, were evaluated using human liver microsomes (HLMs), recombinant CYP2C9 (rCYP2C9) enzymes, and the clinically relevant probe, (S)-warfarin. Silybin B was the most potent inhibitor in HLMs, followed by silybin A, isosilybin B, and isosilybin A (IC(50) of 8.2, 18, 74, and >100 microM, respectively). Next, silybin A and silybin B were selected for further characterization. As with HLMs, silybin B was more potent than silybin A toward rCYP2C9 1 (6.7 versus 12 microM), rCYP2C9 2 (9.3 versus 19 microM), and rCYP2C9 3 (2.4 versus 9.3 microM). Using a matrix of five substrate (1-15 microM) and six inhibitor (1-80 microM) concentrations and HLMs, both diastereoisomers inhibited (S)-warfarin 7-hydroxylation in a manner described best by a mixed-type inhibition model (K(i) values of 4.8 and 10 microM for silybin B and silybin A, respectively). These observations, combined with the high systemic silibinin concentrations (>5-75 microM) achieved in a phase I study involving prostate cancer patients, prompt clinical evaluation of a potential warfarin-milk thistle interaction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Anticoagulants / chemistry
  • Anticoagulants / metabolism*
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Hydroxylases / metabolism*
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2C9
  • Herb-Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Hydroxylation
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Microsomes, Liver / drug effects
  • Microsomes, Liver / metabolism
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Silybin
  • Silybum marianum / chemistry*
  • Silymarin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Silymarin / chemistry
  • Silymarin / pharmacology
  • Stereoisomerism
  • Warfarin / chemistry
  • Warfarin / metabolism*


  • Anticoagulants
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Silymarin
  • Silybin
  • Warfarin
  • CYP2C9 protein, human
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2C9
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Hydroxylases
  • isosilybin A