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IARC Sci Publ. 1999;(148):231-49.

The glutathione S-transferases: influence of polymorphism on cancer susceptibility.

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  • 1Clinical Biochemistry Research Group, School of Postgraduate Medicine, Keele University, North Staffordshire Hospital, Stoke-on-Trent, United Kingdom.


The glutathione S-transferase supergene family is an important part of cellular enzymic defence against endogenous and exogenous chemicals, many of which have a carcinogenic potential. However, while a wide variety of chemicals can act as substrates for different members of the supergene family, the precise function of these enzymes remains unclear. The supergene family comprises several gene families that include polymorphic loci, prompting the hypothesis that allelic variants associated with less effective detoxification of potential carcinogens can confer an increased susceptibility to cancer. For example, the null genotypes at the mu class GSTM1 and theta class GSTT1 loci have attracted particular interest, and recently identified allelic variants at the mu class GSTM3 and pi class GSTP1 loci are also putative susceptibility candidates. However, while associations between GSTM1 and GSTT1 genotypes and risk have been observed in some case-control studies in lung, bladder and colon cancers, other studies have reported contrary findings, and the importance of these polymorphisms in mediating the risk of smoking-related cancers remains generally unproven. We describe the influence of glutathione S-transferase polymorphisms on the risk of several cancers, including basal cell carcinoma of skin. In the latter cancer, associations between tumour numbers, site and accrual have been observed, suggesting a role for GST enzymes in the detoxification of the products of ultraviolet radiation-induced oxidative stress. We review below current knowledge of polymorphism in GST loci, possible in vivo GST substrates, and the difficulties of determining the role of this complex gene family on the basis of available epidemiological data.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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