| Structure of Cycasin and Macrozamin|
Cycasin is found in all the cycad genera
(De Luca 1980)
It is the most common cycad gylcoside, others include macrozamin and neocycasin.
The active component of all theses compounds is MAM (methylazoxyglycoside), which
is metabolised to a toxic intermediate by the p450 enzyme present in the liver
and in the olfactory epithelium in the nose
(Seawright et al. 1995).
|Cleavage of Cycasin to yield MAM|
To release MAM, Cycasin must be cleaved. This cleavage is made by the enzyme
betaglucosidase which is found in microbes in the gut. For this reason cycasin must
be taken orally in order to be toxic. Although MAM is proven to be hepatotoxic and carcinogenic
(Hoffman and Morgan 1983,
no studies have found it to have a neurotoxic effect apart from work by Jones et al.
which showed toxicity to neurons of newborn mice.