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Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences


Z-Guggulsterone is a major ingredient in the Indian traditional hypolipidemic remedy guggul. A study in mice has established that its hypolipidemic effect involves the farnesoid X receptor (FXR), presumably by acting as an antagonist of this receptor. It is generally assumed that the antagonism leads to induction of cytochrome P450 7A1 (CYP7A1), the rate-limiting enzyme converting free cholesterol to bile acids. In this study, we tested whether Z-guggulsterone indeed induces human CYP7A1. In addition, the expression of cholesteryl ester hydrolase CES1 and bile salt export pump (BSEP) was monitored. Contrary to the general assumption, Z-guggulsterone did not induce CYP7A1. Instead, this phytosterol significantly induced CES1 and BSEP through transactivation. Z-Guggulsterone underwent metabolism by CYP3A4, and the metabolites greatly increased the induction potency on BSEP but not on CES1. BSEP induction favors cholesterol elimination, whereas CES1 involves both elimination and retention (probably when excessively induced). Interestingly, clinical trials reported the hypolipidemic response rates from 18% to 80% and showed that higher dosages actually increased VLDL cholesterol. Our findings predict that better hypolipidemic outcomes likely occur in individuals who have a relatively higher capacity of metabolizing Z-guggulsterone with moderate CES1 induction, a scenario possibly achieved by lowering the dosing regimens.