A reappraisal of the proposed metabolic and antioxidant actions of butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) in the liver

J Biochem Mol Toxicol. 2017 Aug;31(8). doi: 10.1002/jbt.21924. Epub 2017 May 29.


Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) was investigated for its metabolic actions in the perfused rat liver. Contrary to what is expected from an uncoupler, BHT up to 500 μM did not stimulate oxygen uptake nor did it inhibit gluconeogenesis from lactate. Transformation of fructose into glucose was also not affected by BHT; only lactate production was slightly increased at the concentration of 100 μM. The uncoupling effect of BHT in isolated mitochondria was confirmed, but only at concentrations above 10 μM; uncoupling at lower concentrations, 10-9 to 10-6 M, could not be confirmed. BHT, however, increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) production in isolated mitochondria, starting at the concentration of 10-8 M. This is the opposite of what can be expected from a compound with proven ex vivo antioxidant action. One cannot exclude the possibility that, in mitochondria, stimulation of ROS production rather than uncoupling could be the most significant effect of BHT.

Keywords: energy metabolism; gluconeogenesis; oxidative stress; prooxidant activity; uncoupling.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Butylated Hydroxytoluene / pharmacology*
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mitochondria, Liver / metabolism*
  • Oxygen Consumption / drug effects*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Uncoupling Agents / pharmacology*


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Uncoupling Agents
  • Butylated Hydroxytoluene