Toxicity of β-carotene and its exacerbation by acetaldehyde in HEPG2 cells

Ruoyu Ni, Maria Anna Leo, Jingbo Zhao, Charles S. Lieber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


In rats and baboons, the hepatotoxicity of chronic ethanol consumption is exacerbated by β-carotene feeding, but the mechanism of this adverse effect is unknown. In this study, the toxicity of β-carotene and acetaldehyde was documented by the MTT test (an assay of reduction of tetrazolium to formazan) and by lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) leakage. In HepG2 cells, β-carotene or acetaldehyde inhibited mitochondrial reduction function as indicated by a decrease of the MTT test. β-Carotene was inhibitory at very low concentration, in a dose-dependent manner. The combination of these two compounds resulted in an additive effect. Acetaldehyde increased LDH leakage from the HepG2 cells into the medium, whereas β-carotene by itself did not show such an effect, but it exacerbated the toxicity of acetaldehyde when combined. In addition, this study showed that acetaldehyde and β-carotene inhibited each other's clearance from the medium, which suggests that these two chemicals may share, at least in part, a common metabolic pathway (possibly via aldehyde dehydrogenase) in the cells, and that a competitive inhibition may exist. In conclusion, this preliminary study indicates that β-carotene is toxic to hepatocytes, especially when combined with acetaldehyde, the metabolite of ethanol.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-285
Number of pages5
JournalAlcohol and Alcoholism
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001


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