Tocotrienols are natural farnesylated analogues of tocopherols which decrease hepatic cholesterol production and reduce plasma cholesterol levels in animals. For several cultured cell types, incubation with gamma-tocotrienol inhibited the rate of [14C]acetate but not [3H] mevalonate incorporation into cholesterol in a concentration- and time-dependent manner, with 50% inhibition at approximately 2 microM and maximum approximately 80% inhibition observed within 6 h in HepG2 cells. 3-Hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase total activity and protein levels assayed by Western blot were reduced concomitantly with the decrease in cholesterol synthesis. In HepG2 cells, gamma-tocotrienol suppressed reductase despite strong blockade by inhibitors at several steps in the pathway, suggesting that isoprenoid flux is not required for the regulatory effect. HMG-CoA reductase protein synthesis rate was moderately diminished (57% of control), while the degradation rate was increased 2.4-fold versus control (t1/2 declined from 3.73 to 1.59 h) as judged by [35S]methionine pulse-chase/immunoprecipitation analysis of HepG2 cells treated with 10 microM gamma-tocotrienol. Under these conditions, the decrease in reductase protein levels greatly exceeded the minor decrease in mRNA (23 versus 76% of control, respectively), and the low density lipoprotein receptor protein was augmented. In contrast, 25-hydroxycholesterol strongly cosuppressed HMG-CoA reductase protein and mRNA levels and the low density lipoprotein receptor protein. Thus, tocotrienols influence the mevalonate pathway in mammalian cells by post-transcriptional suppression of HMG-CoA reductase, and appear to specifically modulate the intracellular mechanism for controlled degradation of the reductase protein, an activity that mirrors the actions of the putative non-sterol isoprenoid regulators derived from mevalonate.
The effects of long-term administration of tocotrienol on hepatocarcinogenesis in rats induced by diethylnitrosamine (DEN) and 2-acetylaminofluorene (AAF) were investigated by determining the activities of gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT), alkaline phosphatase (ALP), glutathione S-transferases (GSTs), and glutathione (GSH) levels in blood and liver. Twenty-eight male 7- to 8-wk-old Rattus norwegicus rats, weighing 120-160 g, were used in this study. The rats were divided into four treatment groups: a control group on a basal diet, a group fed a basal diet supplemented with tocotrienol (30 mg/kg food), a group treated with DEN/AAF, and a group treated with DEN/AAF and fed a diet supplemented with tocotrienol (30 mg/kg food). Blood was collected monthly, and GGT, ALP, and GSH levels were determined. The rats were killed after 9 mo, and the livers were examined morphologically. Grayish white nodules (2/liver) were found in all the DEN/AAF-treated rats (n = 10), but only one of the rats treated with DEN/AAF and supplemented with tocotrienol (n = 6) had liver nodules. A significant increase in the level of blood and liver GSH, ALP, and GGT activities was observed in the DEN/AAF-treated rats. Liver GSTs were similarly increased with DEN/AAF treatment. Tocotrienol supplementation attenuated the impact of the carcinogens in the rats.
The effect of palm oil, a widely used vegetable oil, rich in tocotrienols, on peroxidation potential of rat liver was examined. Long-term feeding of rats with palm oil as one of the dietary components significantly reduced the peroxidation potential of hepatic mitochondria and microsomes. As compared to hepatic mitochondria isolated from rats fed control or corn oil-rich diet, those from palm oil-fed group showed significantly less susceptibility to peroxidation induced by ascorbate and NADPH. However, in microsomes, only NADPH-induced lipid peroxidation was significantly reduced in rats fed palm oil rich-diet. Though the accumulation of thiobarbituric acid reactive substances during ascorbate-induced lipid peroxidation in mitochondria from rats fed corn oil-rich diet supplemented with tocotrienol-rich fraction (TRF) of palm oil was similar to that of control rats, the initial rate of peroxidation was much slower than those from control or corn oil fed diets. Our in vitro studies as well as analyses of co-factors related to peroxidation potential indicated that the observed decrease in palm oil-fed rats may be due to increased amount of antioxidants in terms of tocotrienol as well as decrease in the availability of substrates for peroxidation.