Chapter 36 : Spotlight on Acetaldehyde

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Mikko Salaspuro, of the University of Helsinki in Finland, and his colleagues discovered that normal human colonic contents, especially their aerobic bacteria, generated significant quantities of acetaldehyde when incubated aerobically or microaerobically with ethanol in vitro. Writing in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, they suggested that this bacterial adaptation might be an essential feature of what they called the bacteriocolonic pathway to form acetaldehyde from exogenous (or endogenous) alcohol. Another type of evidence comes from studies on Oriental flushers. These are individuals with genetically deficient aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2) whose faces redden after they consume alcohol; the partially inactive enzyme cannot deal quickly enough with acetaldehyde produced by alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH). As a means of preventing the adverse consequences of this accumulation, Salaspuro and his colleagues experimented with the nonessential amino acid L-cysteine. This reacts covalently with acetaldehyde (to form 2-methylthiazolidine-4-carboxylic acid). In principle, therefore, it could be used in slow-release tablets to forestall carcinogenicity. A further strand of evidence comes from the comparison of saliva from different individuals who varied in their capacities to produce acetaldehyde. The observation of increased yeast colonization in patients with poor dental hygiene might be of special interest since several strains have been shown to occur more frequently and in higher densities in risk groups of oral cancer.

Citation: Dixon B. 2009. Spotlight on Acetaldehyde, p 166-170. In Animalcules. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817442.ch36
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1. Homann, N.,, J. Tillonen,, H. Rintamäki,, M. Salaspuro,, C. Lindqvist,, and J. H. Meurman. 2001. Poor dental status increases acetaldehyde production from ethanol in saliva: a possible link to increased oral cancer risk among heavy drinkers. Oral Oncol. 37: 153 158.
2. Muto, M.,, Y. Hitomi,, A. Ohtsu,, H. Shimada,, Y. Kashiwase,, H. Sasaki,, S. Yoshida,, and H. Esumi. 2000. Acetaldehyde production by non-pathogenic Neisseria in human oral microflora: implications for carcinogenesis in upper aerodigestive tract. Int. J. Cancer 88: 342 350.
3. Salaspuro, V.,, J. Hietala,, P. Kaihovaara,, L. Pihlajarinne,, M. Marvola,, and M. Salaspuro. 2002. Removal of acetaldehyde from saliva by a slow-release buccal tablet of L-cysteine. Int. J. Cancer 97: 361 364.
4. Salaspuro, V.,, S. Nyfors,, R. Heine,, A. Siitonen,, M. Salaspuro,, and H. Jousimies-Somer. 1999. Ethanol oxidation and acetaldehyde production in vitro by human intestinal strains of Escherichia coli under aerobic, microaerobic, and anaerobic conditions. Scand. J. Gastroenterol. 34: 967 973.
5. Väkeväinen, S.,, J. Tillonen,, D. P. Agarwal,, N. Srivastava,, and M. Salaspuro. 2000. High salivary acetaldehyde after a moderate dose of alcohol in ALDH2-deficient subjects: strong evidence for the local carcinogenic action of acetaldehyde. Alcohol Clin. Exp. Res. 24: 873 877.

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