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J Biochem Mol Toxicol. 2005;19(6):406-14.

Malathion detoxification by human hepatic carboxylesterases and its inhibition by isomalathion and other pesticides.

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Environment and Primary Prevention Department, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Viale Regina Elena 299, I-00161 Rome, Italy.


The organophosphorothioate (OPT) pesticide malathion (MAL) in mammals is readily hydrolyzed by mammalian carboxylesterases (CE). The reaction competes with the CYP-catalyzed formation of malaoxon (MOX), the toxic metabolite. Alterations or individual variations in CE activity may result in increased MOX formation, enhancing MAL toxicity. We have characterized the human hepatic CE activity in a panel of 18 human liver microsomes as well as the inhibitory effect of IsoMAL, a major impurity of MAL commercial formulations, parathion (PAR), chlorpyrifos (CPF), and chlorpyrifos-oxon (CPFO). CE activity showed a low level of variation among individuals (4-fold). The reaction consists of two different phases, differing in their affinity for mal (k(m1)=0.25-0.69 microm; K(m2)=10.3-26.8 microM). The relatively low K(m1) values confirmed that human CE efficiently detoxify MAL. IsoMAL was shown to be a potent noncompetitive inhibitor of MAL detoxification (K(i)=0.6 microM), with a higher inhibitory potency than CPF and PAR (K(i)=7.5 microM and 50 microM, respectively). These two latter compounds very likely act as mixed inhibitors. CPFO showed the highest inhibitory potency toward CE-mediated detoxification, being characterized by a K(i)=22 nM. The present results provide useful information for a better understanding of possible interactions between different OPTs and for assessing the potential cumulative risk for exposure to OPT mixtures.

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