Metabolic fate of dietary terpenes from Eucalyptus radiata in common ringtail possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus)

Stuart McLean*, William J. Foley, Noel W. Davies, Susan Brandon, Li Duo, Adrian J. Blackman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


Arboreal marsupials consume terpenes in quantities that are toxic to other mammals, indicating that they possess special detoxification mechanisms. The metabolic fate of dietary terpenes was studied in the common ringtail possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus). Three animals were fed Eucalyptus radiata leaf for 10 days. Leaf consumption increased over three days to an average steady state of about 10-15 mmol total terpenes per day. GCMS analysis identified six urinary terpene metabolites, which were dicarboxylic acids, hydroxyacids, or lactones. Another nine metabolites could only be shown to be terpene-derived but of unknown structure. The amounts excreted were estimated by GC-FID, using response factors based on carbon content. Total 24-hr excretion of terpene-derived metabolites increased to 6.2-7.6 mmol on days 5-10, while glucuronic acid excretion remained constant at about 1.5 mmol. No other conjugates of terpene metabolites were found. The strategy used by the possum to detoxify dietary terpenes seems to be to polyoxygenate the molecules forming highly polar, acidic metabolites that can be readily excreted. Conjugation is minimal, perhaps to conserve carbohydrate and amino acids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1625-1643
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1993
Externally publishedYes


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