We have recently demonstrated that the hepatobiliary transport of arsenic is glutathione-dependent and is associated with a profound increase in biliary excretion of glutathione (GSH), hepatic GSH depletion and diminished GSH conjugation (Gyurasics Á, Varga F and Gregus Z, Biochem Pharmacol 41: 937-944 and Gyurasics Á, Varga F and Gregus Z, Biochem Pharmacol 42: 465-468, 1991). The present studies in rats aimed to determine whether antimony and bismuth, other metalloids in group Va of the periodic table, also possess similar properties. Antimony potassium tartrate (25-100 μmol/kg, i.v.) and bismuth ammonium citrate (50-200 μmol/kg, i.v.) increased up to 50- and 4-fold, respectively, the biliary excretion of non-protein thiols (NPSH). This resulted mainly from increased hepatobiliary transport of GSH as suggested by a close parallelism in the biliary excretion of NPSH and GSH after antimony or bismuth administration. Within 2 hr, rats excreted into bile 55 and 3% of the dose of antimony (50 μmol/kg, i.v.) and bismuth (150 μmol/kg, i.v.), respectively. The time courses of the biliary excretion of these metalloids and NPSH or GSH were strikingly similar suggesting co-ordinate hepatobiliary transport of the metalloids and GSH. However, at the peak of their excretion, each molecule of antimony or bismuth resulted in a co-transport of approximately three molecules of GSH. Diethyl maleate, indocyanine green and sulfobromophthalein (BSP), which decreased biliary excretion of GSH, significantly diminished excretion of antimony and bismuth into bile indicating that hepatobiliary transport of these metalloids is GSH-dependent. Administration of antimony, but not bismuth, decreased hepatic GSH level by 30% and reduced the GSH conjugation and biliary excretion of BSP. These studies demonstrate that the hepatobiliary transport of trivalent antimony and bismuth is GSH-dependent similarly to the hepatobiliary transport of trivalent arsenic. Proportionally to their biliary excretion rates, these metalloids generate increased biliary excretion of GSH probably because they are transported from liver to bile as unstable GSH complexes. The significant loss of hepatic GSH into bile as induced by arsenic or antimony may compromise conjugation of xenobiotics with GSH.
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