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Carcinogenesis. 2001 Jan;22(1):5-10.

Carcinogen substrate specificity of human COX-1 and COX-2.

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  • 1Division of Toxicology, University of Arkansas for Medical Science, Little Rock, AR 72205, USA.


The activation of carcinogenic aromatic and heterocyclic amines and benzo[a]pyrene-7,8-diol to intracellular electrophiles by prostaglandin H synthase (COX) is well documented for ovine sources of this enzyme. Here, the arachidonic acid-dependent activation of substrates by human (h)COX-1 and-2 is examined, utilizing recombinant enzymes. The COX-dependent activation of benzidine (BZ), 4-aminobiphenyl, (+)benzo[a]pyrene-7,8-diol, (+)benzo[a]pyrene-7,8-diol, 2-amino-3,8-dimethylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoxaline (MeIQx), 2-amino-3-methylimidazo [4,5-f]quinoline (IQ), 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo [4,5-b] pyridine (PhIP), and 4,4'-methylenebis(2-chloroaniline) (MOCA) is assessed by means of COX-catalyzed, covalent DNA binding. The hCOX isozymes activated all substrates tested, activation varied from barely detectable for IQ (0.76 and 1.52 pmol bound/mg DNA for COX-1 and -2, respectively) to a high of 65 and 117 pmol bound/mg DNA for COX-1 and -2, respectively, for the activation of MOCA. BZ, which is an excellent peroxidase substrate, did not exhibit high DNA binding levels in hCOX assays and this phenomenon was found to be due to high levels of binding to protein, which effectively competed with the DNA for binding in the assay. The demonstrated ability of the COX enzymes to activate a variety of environmental and dietary carcinogens indicates a potential role for COX in the activation pathway of aromatic and heterocyclic amines and polycyclic hydrocarbons at extra-hepatic sites during early or late stages of carcinogenesis.

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