Hepatic tyrosine aminotransferase and glucocorticoid abuse in meat cattle


Prof. Carlo Nebbia, Dipartimento di Patologia Animale, Sezione Farmacologia e Tossicologia, Università degli Studi di Torino, Via Leonardo da Vinci 44, 10095 Grugliasco, Italia. E-mail:carlo.nebbia@unito.it


Bertarelli, D., Balbo, A., Carletti, M., Cannizzo, T., Girolami, F., Nebbia, C. Hepatic tyrosine aminotransferase and glucocorticoid abuse in meat cattle. J. vet. Pharmacol. Therap. 35, 596–603.

Besides being extensively applied as therapeutical remedies, glucocorticoids (GCs) – most notably dexamethasone or prednisolone – are also illegally used in livestock for growth-promoting purposes. This study was designed to assess the suitability of liver tyrosine aminotransferase (TAT), a gluconeogenic enzyme known to be induced by GCs, to act as a reliable candidate biomarker to screen for GC abuse in cattle. Enzyme activity was measured spectrophotometrically in liver cytosols or in cell extracts, and TAT gene expression was determined by real-time PCR. Compared with untreated veal calves, a notable scatter (20-fold) and much higher median values (3-fold) characterized TAT specific activity in liver samples from commercially farmed veal calves. A time-related increase in both enzyme activity and gene expression was detected in rat hepatoma cell lines treated with dexamethasone concentrations (10−8 or 10−9 m) in the range of those recorded in noncompliant samples from EU official controls. In experimental studies in which finishing bulls were administered GCs at growth-promoting dosages, however, no such changes were recorded in dexamethasone-treated animals; a statistically significant rise in liver TAT activity (+95%) only occurred in prednisolone-treated bulls. Although further research is needed to characterize the GC-mediated response in cattle liver, TAT does not appear to be a specific and sensitive biomarker of GC abuse in the bovine species.