Background & aims: Hepatic iron toxicity may be mediated by free radical species and lipid peroxidation of biological membranes. The antioxidant property of silybin, a main constituent of natural flavonoids, was investigated in vivo during experimental iron overload.
Methods: Rats were fed a 2.5% carbonyl-iron diet and 100 mg.kg body wt-1.day-1 silybin for 4 months and were assayed for accumulation of hepatic lipid peroxidation by-products by immunocytochemistry, mitochondrial energy-dependent functions, and mitochondrial malondialdehyde content.
Results: Iron overload caused a dramatic accumulation of malondialdehyde-protein adducts into iron-filled periportal hepatocytes that was decreased appreciably by silybin treatment. The same beneficial effect of silybin was found on the iron-induced accumulation of malondialdehyde in mitochondria. As to the liver functional efficiency, mitochondrial energy wasting and tissue adenosine triphosphate depletion induced by iron overload were successfully counteracted by silybin.
Conclusions: Oral administration of silybin protects against iron-induced hepatic toxicity in vivo. This effect seems to be caused by the prominent antioxidant activity of this compound.