Effect of ethephon on the liver in albino rats: A histomorphometric study

Biomed J. 2015 Sep-Oct;38(5):421-7. doi: 10.4103/2319-4170.155589.


Background: Chemicals that are commonly used for artificial ripening and to increase the shelf life of fruits and vegetables are ethylene, ethane, calcium carbide, and ethephon. The present study was conducted to study the effect of ethephon on the morphometry of rat liver.

Methods: Ethephon was administered by oral gavage tube to 10 adult Wistar albino rats at a dose of 200 mg/kg body weight/day for 14 days. Ten controls were maintained. The animals were sacrificed within 24 h of administering the last dose by perfusion with formal saline under anesthesia. Liver was dissected and processed for paraffin embedding. Histomorphometric studies were done on randomly selected sections of the liver and the data obtained were tabulated and statistically analyzed.

Results: In the experimental rats, the hepatocytes had a mean long and short diameter of 15.02 ± 4.20 and 12.08 ± 3.02 μm, respectively. In the control animals, the mean long and short diameters were found to be 16.5 ± 3.59 and 13.9 ± 3.59 μm, respectively. The nucleus of the hepatocytes had a mean long and short diameter of 5.08 ± 1.93 and 5.08 ± 1.93 μm, respectively, in the ethephon-treated rats and 6.15 ± 1.72 and 6.05 ± 1.68 μm, respectively, in the control animals. The decrease in diameters of the hepatocytes and their nuclei was statistically significant. At some sites, the parenchyma showed pyknotic nucleus and inflammatory infiltrations. There was a statistically significant increase in the diameters of the central vein and sinusoids. Dilatation of the bile canaliculi was seen in between the hepatocytes.

Conclusion: The plant growth regulator, insecticide, and fruit ripener, ethephon, caused inflammatory and degenerative changes in the liver with associated cholestasis, probably suggestive of toxic hepatitis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury / diagnosis
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury / pathology
  • Cholestasis / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Inflammation / chemically induced
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Liver / drug effects*
  • Liver / pathology*
  • Organophosphorus Compounds / pharmacology*
  • Plant Growth Regulators / pharmacology*
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Organophosphorus Compounds
  • Plant Growth Regulators
  • ethephon