The effects of astaxanthin on liver histopathology and expression of superoxide dismutase in rat aflatoxicosis

J Vet Med Sci. 2019 Aug 24;81(8):1162-1172. doi: 10.1292/jvms.18-0690. Epub 2019 Jul 3.


The metabolism of aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) generates reactive oxygen species (ROS) that destroys hepatocytes. Meanwhile, astaxanthin (AX) is known to have stronger antioxidative activity than other carotenoids. This study aimed to investigate hepatoprotective role of AX from AFB1-induced toxicity in rat by histopathological study and immunohistochemistry of Cu/Zn-SOD (SOD1) which acts as the first enzyme in antioxidative reaction against cell injury from ROS. Twenty Wistar rats were randomly divided into 4 groups. The control and AFB1 groups were gavaged by water for 7 days followed by a single DMSO and 1 mg/kg AFB1, respectively. The AXL+ AFB1 and AXH+ AFB1 groups were given of 5 mg/kg and 100 mg/kg AX for 7 days before 1 mg/kg AFB1 administration. The result showed significantly elevated liver weight per 100 g body weight in AFB1 group. The histopathological finding revealed vacuolar degeneration, necrosis, megalocytosis and binucleation of hepatocytes with bile duct hyperplasia in AFB1 group. The severities of pathological changes were sequentially reduced in AXL+AFB1 and AXH+AFB1 groups. Most rats in AXH+AFB1 group owned hypertrophic hepatocytes and atypical proliferation of cholangiocytes which are adaptive responses to severe hepatocyte damage. The SOD1 expression was also significantly higher in AXH+AFB1 group than solely treated AFB1 and AXL+AFB1 groups. In conclusion, AX alleviated AFB1-induced liver damage in rat by stimulating SOD1 expression and transdifferentiation of cholangiocytes in dose dependent manner.

Keywords: aflatoxin B1; astaxanthin; histopathology; immunohistochemistry; superoxide dismutase.

MeSH terms

  • Aflatoxin B1 / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Drug Interactions
  • Liver / drug effects*
  • Liver / enzymology
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver Diseases / drug therapy
  • Liver Diseases / pathology
  • Mycotoxicosis / drug therapy
  • Mycotoxicosis / pathology
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Poisons / toxicity*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Superoxide Dismutase / metabolism*
  • Xanthophylls / pharmacology
  • Xanthophylls / therapeutic use


  • Antioxidants
  • Poisons
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Xanthophylls
  • astaxanthine
  • Aflatoxin B1
  • Superoxide Dismutase