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Drug Metab Dispos. 2003 Nov;31(11):1361-8.

N-glucuronidation of nicotine and cotinine by human liver microsomes and heterologously expressed UDP-glucuronosyltransferases.

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  • 1University of Minnesota Cancer Center, Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455, USA.


Nicotine is considered the major addictive agent in tobacco. Tobacco users extensively metabolize nicotine to cotinine. Both nicotine and cotinine undergo N-glucuronidation. Human liver microsomes have been shown to catalyze the formation of these N-glucuronides. However, which UDP-glucuronosyltransferases contribute to this catalysis has not been identified. To identify these enzymes, we initially measured the rates of glucuronidation by 15 human liver microsome samples. Fourteen of the samples glucuronidated both nicotine and cotinine at rates ranging from 146 to 673 pmol/min/mg protein and 140 to 908 pmol/min/mg protein, respectively. The rates of nicotine glucuronidation and cotinine glucuronidation by these 14 samples were correlated, r = 0.97 (p < 0.0001). The glucuronidation of nicotine and cotinine by heterologously expressed UGT1A3, UGT1A4, and UGT1A9 was also determined. All three enzymes catalyzed the glucuronidation of nicotine. However, the rate of catalysis by UGT1A4 Supersomes was more than 30-fold greater than that by either UGT1A3 Supersomes or UGT1A9 Supersomes. Interestingly, when expressed per UGT1A protein, measured by a UGT1A specific antibody, cell lysate from V79-expressed UGT1A9 catalyzed nicotine glucuronidation at a rate 17-fold greater than did UGT1A9 Supersomes. UGT1A4 Supersomes also catalyzed cotinine N-glucuronidation, but at one-tenth the rate of nicotine glucuronidation. Cotinine glucuronidation by either UGT1A3 or UGT1A9 was not detected. Both propofol, a UGT1A9 substrate, and imipramine, a UGT1A4 substrate, inhibited the glucuronidation of nicotine and cotinine by human liver microsomes. Taken together, these data support a role for both UGT1A9 and UGT1A4 in the catalysis of nicotine and cotinine N-glucuronidation.

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