Atrazine (ATZ) is one of the most commonly used herbicides contaminating plants, soil and water resources. Several strategies have been used to counteract ATZ toxicity. Here, we tested the hypothesis that lycopene could ameliorate ATZ-induced toxicity in the adrenal cortex. For this purpose, 35 adult male albino rats were randomized into five equal groups: untreated control, vehicle control (received 0.5 mL corn oil/day), lycopene (treated with lycopene dissolved in 0.5 mL corn oil, 10 mg/kg b.w./day), ATZ (received ATZ dissolved in 0.5 mL corn oil 300 mg/kg b.w./day), and ATZ + lycopene (treated with ATZ and lycopene at the same previously mentioned doses). All treatments were given by oral gavage for 4 weeks. We found that ATZ exposure significantly increased relative adrenal weight, plasma ACTH levels, and adrenal oxidative stress as manifested by elevated malondialdehyde levels, decreased reduced glutathione content and depressed antioxidant enzyme activities in adrenal cortex tissues with respect to control groups. Furthermore, the transcription of adrenal cortex nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2), heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1), nuclear factor kappa B, and caspase-3 genes was increased significantly compared with the control groups. This was accompanied with DNA fragmentation and structural and ultrastructural changes in zona glomerulosa and zona fasiculata of the adrenal cortex. Notably, all these changes were partially ameliorated in rats treated concomitantly with ATZ and lycopene. Our results showed that lycopene exerts protective effects against ATZ-induced toxicity in rat adrenal cortex. These effects may be attributed to the antioxidative property of lycopene and its ability to activate the Nrf2/HO-1 pathway.
Keywords: Adrenal cortex; Atrazine; Caspase-3; HO-1; Lycopene; NF-kB; Nrf2; Oxidative stress.