Adult male rats with cannulated or ligated bile ducts were given S-(2-hydroxyoestradiol-1-yl)[35S]glutathione, S-(2-hydroxy[6,7-3H2]oestradiol-1-yl)glutathione or S-(2-hydroxyoestradiol-1-yl)[glycine-3H]glutathione by intraperitoneal injection. The recovery of radioactivity in the bile of bile duct-cannulated rats was 33–86% and in the urine of bile duct-ligated rats was 54–105%. Oestrogen thioether derivatives of glutathione, cysteinylglycine, cysteine and N-acetylcysteine were isolated from bile; only the N-acetylcysteine derivatives could be identified in the urine. The steroid moiety was characterized by microchemical tests before and after treatment with Raney nickel: 2-hydroxyoestradiol-17β was released from the glutathione conjugate, and 2-hydroxyoestrone and 2-hydroxyoestrone 3-methyl ether from the other conjugates. From intact rats the recovery of administered radioactivity was about 15% in the urine and 5% in the faeces over a period of several days and the radioactivity appeared to be largely protein-bound. The results demonstrate that injected oestrogen–glutathione conjugate undergoes conversion into N-acetylcysteine derivatives in vivo. Oestrogen–glutathione conjugates formed in the intact rat may be excreted in an apparently non-steroidal, possibly protein-bound form, which would not be detected by current analytical techniques.

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