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Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2006 Jan;79(1):72-89.

Modulation of the central nervous effects of levomethadone by genetic polymorphisms potentially affecting its metabolism, distribution, and drug action.

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Pharmazentrum frankfurt/ZAFES, Institute of Clinical Pharmacology, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.



Our aim was to judge the importance of candidate pharmacogenetic modulators of the central nervous effects of levomethadone by both magnitude of the modulatory effect and frequency of the mutation to assess the utility of genotyping for clinical levomethadone therapy in a random sample of subjects that, by distribution of genotypes, resembled the clinical setting.


Candidate pharmacogenetic modulators were polymorphisms reported to be of functional consequence and therefore potentially important for metabolism, distribution, or pharmacodynamic action of levomethadone, consisting of genes coding for cytochrome P450 (CYP) 2B6 and 3A, as well as 1A2, 2C8, 2C9, 2C19, and 2D6, for P-glycoprotein (ABCB1), and for mu-opioid receptors (OPRM1). The central nervous effects of levomethadone were investigated by means of measuring pupil size in a random sample of 51 healthy volunteers for 9 hours after oral administration of 0.075 mg/kg levomethadone. Plasma concentrations of levomethadone and its metabolites were assessed concomitantly, and to judge the role of metabolites, the affinities of levomethadone and its metabolites at mu-opioid receptors were estimated by use of displacement of the selective mu-opioid receptor agonist [(3)H]-DAMGO ((3)H-[D-Ala(2),N-MePhe(4),Gly-ol(5)]-enkephalin).


Pupil size decreased to -41.8% +/- 9.6% from baseline at 3.5 +/- 1.1 hours after levomethadone administration. Miosis was still manifest to a lower degree (-25.1% +/- 12.3%) at the end of the observation period. In carriers of the variant 118G allele (118A>G single-nucleotide polymorphism) of the mu-opioid receptor gene (OPRM1), levomethadone had a 1.74 times (95% confidence interval, 1.4-2.2 times) lower miotic potency (P < .001) as compared with noncarriers (concentration at half-maximum effects, 52.3 nmol/L; 95% confidence interval, 36.7-66.2 nmol/L). The maximum percent decrease in pupil diameter from baseline was 44.9% +/- 7.6%, 33% +/- 6.5%, and 24% +/- 6.9% for carriers of the OPRM1 118AA, AG, and GG genotypes, respectively (P < .001 for AG and GG versus wild type, without significant differences between AG and GG). Other candidate polymorphisms in the ABCB1 or in CYP genes had no significant influence on the effects of levomethadone, either because of lack of functional consequences or because of their low allelic frequency. The metabolites of levomethadone did not contribute to the effects as indicated by low metabolite plasma concentrations and their 120- to 1300-fold lower affinities at mu-opioid receptors as compared with levomethadone.


Among polymorphisms in OPRM1, ABCB1, and CYP genes previously associated with functional consequences in a different context, the most important pharmacogenetic factor modulating the short-term effects of levomethadone is a polymorphism (OPRM1 118A>G) affecting mu-opioid receptors.

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