Glucuronidation in the polar bear (Ursus maritimus).

Research paper by James C JC Sacco, Margaret O MO James

Indexed on: 05 Jun '04Published on: 05 Jun '04Published in: Marine Environmental Research


Polar bears bioaccumulate lipophilic pollutants, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), into their bodies from their exclusive diet of marine organisms. Hydroxylated PCB metabolites (OH-PCBs) have been found in plasma, presumably due to CYP-dependent biotransformation of PCBs in liver. Little is known about the phase 2 metabolism of hydroxylated xenobiotics in polar bears. The objective of this study was to examine UDP-glucuronosyltransferase (UGT) activity with OH-PCBs and a hydroxylated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, 3-hydroxy-benzo(a)pyrene (3-OH-BaP), in polar bear liver. Samples of frozen polar bear liver were used to prepare microsomes. UGT activity with 3-OH-BaP in Brij-treated microsomes, measured by a fluorescence assay, was readily measurable with protein concentrations in assay tubes of up to 10 g/ml, but dropped off very sharply at higher protein concentrations. The apparent Km for 3-OH-BaP was 1.71 +/- 0.04 microM, and Vmax 1.26 +/- 0.16 nmol/min/mg protein (mean +/- SD, n=3). UGT activities with a model tetrachloro-OH-PCB (4'-OH-CB72) and a model hexachloro-OH-PCB (4'-OH-CB159) were assayed with [14-C]-UDPGA and separation of the [14-C]-glucuronide by ion-pair extraction and thin-layer chromatography. [14-C]-glucuronide conjugates were readily formed by polar bear liver microsomes in the absence of added substrate, apparently from contaminants present in liver. This phenomenon was not observed using hepatic microsomes from laboratory-held catfish. Glucuronidation efficiency was much higher with 4'-OH-CB72 (Km 7.3 microM; Vmax 1.55 nmol/min/mg) than 4'-OH-CB159 (Km 16.1 microM; Vmax 0.46 nmol/min/mg). The identities of the aglycones present in polar bear liver are not known, but could include OH-PCBs or hydroxylated metabolites of other persistent organic pollutants. This study demonstrates that UGT with high activity for 3-OH-BaP and other substrates is present in polar bear liver.