Chemoprotective action of natural products on cultured human epithelial cells exposed to aflatoxin B1
Previous studies indicate that a mutation in the non-oncogenic p53 gene is epidemiologically linked to human HCC (Ozturk, 1991; Chan et al., 2003). Hsu et al. (1991) found this link in Chinese, South African and Asian patients and Hollstein et al. (1993) found the same gene mutation in Taiwanese patients. The incidence of these aberrations is reported to be about 20- 50% in HCC’s (Kishimoto et al., 1997). There is sufficient evidence to indicate that carotenoids in addition to their well known antioxidant properties (Paiva and Russel, 1999), also affect intercellular communication, immune responses, neoplastic transformations and growth control, and cellular levels of enzymes that detoxify carcinogens (Zhang et al., 1991; Brockman et al., 1992; Pryor et al., 2000). To date studies carried out have used the rat (Foote et al., 1970; Gradelet et al., 1998) and the mule duckling model (Cheng et al., 2001) to show the protective effect of these carotenoids against AFB1 exposure. Of the well known carotenoids, lycopene and beta- carotene occur in abundance in fruits and vegetables and are safe for human consumption. Aflatoxin B1 frequently induces mutations of the p53 gene which is linked to HCC. Although there is much evidence from epidemiological studies linking the beneficial aspects of carotenoids to the prevention of cancer, the cellular and molecular mechanisms need to be understood in order to implement large scale intervention strategies to prevent AFB1 induced carcinoma. The use of chemical or dietary interventions to alter the susceptibility of humans to the actions of carcinogens and to block, retard or reverse carcinogenesis is an emerging chemoprotective strategy for disease prevention (Abdulla and Gruber, 2000; Kensler et al., 2003; Bingham and Riboli, 2004). Chemoprotection by natural products involves maintaining cellular integrity, preventing DNA alterations, activation of p53 suppressor protein and apoptosis. The aim of this study was thus to investigate the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which beta-carotene and lycopene may prevent the AFB1-induced toxic changes in human hepatocytes. In order to achieve this aim, the following objectives were set out: i. To optimise an in vitro system for the evaluation of AFB1 damage to cultured hepatocytes. ii. To determine the biochemical protection offered by beta-carotene and lycopene to AFB1-exposed hepatocytes, by measuring the mitochondrial activity, cell viability and ROS levels using appropriate enzyme assays and flow cytometry. iii. To determine the cellular protection offered by beta-carotene and lycopene to AFB1-exposed hepatocytes, by studying the morphological changes at the structural and ultrastructural levels using phase contrast light and electron microscopy respectively. iv. To determine the molecular protection offered by beta-carotene and lycopene to AFB1-exposed hepatocytes, by detecting apoptotic bodies as genomic markers and measuring the levels of p53 protein and AFB1-N7-guanine adducts produced.