Metabolism of Methyleugenol in Liver Microsomes and Primary Hepatocytes: Pattern of Metabolites, Cytotoxicity, and DNA-adduct Formation

Toxicol Sci. 2012 Sep;129(1):21-34. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfs181. Epub 2012 May 18.


Methyleugenol (1) is a constituent of many foods, in particular of herbal spices, and is used as flavoring agent in foodstuffs and as fragrance in cosmetics. 1 has been found to be carcinogenic in rodents, its metabolite, 1-hydroxymethyleugenol (2) acting as proximate DNA-binding carcinogen. We incubated 1 with liver microsomes of rat, bovine, and human origin. We found 2, 3-hydroxymethylisoeugenol (3), and 6-hydroxymethyleugenol (4) as major metabolites, and 1-oxomethyleugenol (5), 3-oxomethylisoeugenol (6), eugenol (9), chavibetol (11), and (RS)-2,3-dihydroxy-2,3-dihydromethyleugenol (7) as minor metabolites. Methyleugenol-2,3-epoxide (8), probably the precursor of 7, could not be detected. Incubations with synthetic metabolites were applied in order to uncover metabolic pathways. Incubations with primary rat hepatocytes revealed mainly nonconjugated 2 and conjugated 4, and minor amounts of partly conjugated 7 and conjugated 9 + 11. The "reactive metabolites" 3, 5, 6, and 8 were not detectable, possibly due to rapid reaction with cellular macromolecules. The highest cytotoxicity (resazurin reduction assay and lactate dehydrogenase leakage assay) was observed for the main metabolite 2 and its secondary metabolite 5 with EC(50) values of 50 and 10 µM, respectively. Deoxyadenosine or deoxyguanosine adducts were formed by incubating 1 or metabolites with rat hepatocytes. The rank order of adduct formation was 2 > 1 > 3 > 6, whereas 4, 5, and 8 were inactive. In conclusion, we present a virtually complete pattern of microsomal (rat, bovine, and human) and hepatocellular (rat) metabolites of 1 suggesting the formation of several reactive metabolites possibly involved in carcinogenicity, organ toxicity, and immune reactions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • DNA Adducts*
  • Eugenol / analogs & derivatives*
  • Eugenol / metabolism
  • Eugenol / toxicity
  • Hepatocytes / drug effects*
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Microsomes, Liver / drug effects*
  • Microsomes, Liver / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Rats
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • DNA Adducts
  • methyleugenol
  • Eugenol