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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2000 Jul;294(1):88-95.

Inhibition of human cytochrome P450 enzymes by constituents of St. John's Wort, an herbal preparation used in the treatment of depression.

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Drug Metabolism Department, Candidate Synthesis, Enhancement, and Evaluation, Central Research Division, Pfizer, Inc., Groton, Connecticut 06340, USA.


Commercially available St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) extracts, preparations that are used in the treatment of depression, were examined for the potential to inhibit human cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzyme activities, specifically CYP1A2, CYP2C9, CYP2C19, CYP2D6, and CYP3A4. Crude extracts demonstrated inhibition of each of these five enzymes, with CYP2D6, CYP2C9, and CYP3A4 being more sensitive than CYP1A2 and CYP2C19. Extracts were fractionated by HPLC, and each of the fractions was tested for inhibition of these five CYPs to identify individual constituents with inhibitory activity. Several fractions were shown to possess inhibitory activity, including the fractions containing hyperforin (the putative active antidepressant constituent), I3,II8-biapigenin, and hypericin. Hyperforin and I3,II8-biapigenin were isolated from the extract, and inhibition constants for the five CYP activities were measured. In addition, three other constituents, hypericin, quercetin, and chlorogenic acid, were tested for inhibitory activity toward the CYP enzymes. The flavonoid compound I3,II8-biapigenin was shown to be a potent, competitive inhibitor of CYP3A4, CYP2C9, and CYP1A2 activities with K(i) values of 0.038, 0.32, and 0.95 microM, respectively. Hyperforin was a potent noncompetitive inhibitor of CYP2D6 activity (K(i) = 1.5 microM) and competitive inhibitor of CYP2C9 and CYP3A4 activities (K(i) = 1.8 and 0.48 microM, respectively). Hypericin also demonstrated potent inhibition of several CYP activities. These in vitro data indicate that St. John's wort preparations contain constituents that can potently inhibit the activities of major human drug-metabolizing enzymes and suggest that these preparations should be examined for potential pharmacokinetic drug interactions in vivo.

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