Glucuronidation: Detox, Balance Hormones, & Genes

Glucuronidation is an important detoxification reaction that inactivates and detoxifies estrogens, hormones, neurotransmitters, drugs, mold toxins, and cancer-causing toxins. In this post, we’ll explain glucuronidation and factors that increase or decrease it. In addition, we’ll also cover beta-glucuronidase, an enzyme produced by gut bacteria that undoes glucuronidation. Finally, we’ll review the genes that affect glucuronidation.

What Is Glucuronidation?

Glucuronidation involves the addition of glucuronic acid to a toxic molecule to make it [1]:

Why Is Glucuronidation Important?

If toxins don’t get properly inactivated and removed, they cause cell and tissue damage and may initiate cancer.

Glucuronidation is one of the most important detox reactions taking place in our bodies [2].

It is responsible for the clearance of many drugs, cancer-causing chemicals, environmental toxins, and substances found in food [3].

Where Glucuronidation Takes Place

Glucuronidation enzymes (UGTs) are found throughout the body: in the gut, kidney, brain, pancreas, and placenta. However, the majority are found in the liver [3].

This is because the liver is the key organ for processing drugs and internal compounds such as hormones and bile acids [4].

On the other hand, some UGTs (UGT2B15 and UGT2B17) are found in the prostate where they control local testosterone levels [5].

Others (UGT1A10 and UGT2B7) are found in the breasts where they inactivate estrogen [5].

In the brain, UGTs actively protect against the intrusion of harmful chemicals [2].

Dopamine and serotonin are also processed by UGTs. However, the impact of UGTs on the overall dopamine and serotonin levels is minor [2].

Key Glucuronidation Enzymes (UGTs)

Enzymes responsible for glucuronidation are called UDP-glucuronosyltransferases or UGTs [2].

In humans, around 40 – 70% of all clinical drugs are cleared by UGTs [3].

Apart from removing foreign substances, UGTs also participate in the clearance of bilirubin, steroid hormones, thyroid hormones, bile acids, and fat-soluble vitamins [3].

There are 19 functional human UGTs. They belong to one of the three subfamilies: UGT1A, UGT2A, and UGT2B [