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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2002 Mar 8;291(4):1089-94.

Reduction of toxic metabolite formation of acetaminophen.

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  • 1Chemical Research Center, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, H-1525 Budapest, Hungary.


Acetaminophen is a widely used over-the-counter drug that causes severe hepatic damage upon overdose. Cytochrome P450-dependent oxidation of acetaminophen results in the formation of the toxic N-acetyl-p-benzoquinone-imine (NAPQI). Inhibition of cytochrome P450 enzymes responsible for NAPQI formation might be useful--besides N-acetylcysteine treatment--in managing acetaminophen overdose. Investigations were carried out using human liver microsomes to test whether selective inhibition of cytochrome P450s reduces NAPQI formation. Selective inhibition of CYP3A4 and CYP1A2 did not reduce, whereas the inhibition of CYP2A6 and CYP2E1 significantly decreased NAPQI formation. Furthermore, selective CYP2E1 inhibitors that are used in human therapy were tested for their inhibitory effect on NAPQI formation. 4-Methylpyrazole, disulfiram, and diethyl-dithiocarbamate were the most potent inhibitors with IC(50) values of 50 microM, 8 microM, and 33 microM, respectively. Although cimetidin is used in the therapy of acetaminophen overdose as an inhibitor of cytochrome P450, it is not able to reduce NAPQI formation.

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