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Drug Metab Pharmacokinet. 2006 Aug;21(4):257-76.

Xenobiotic-metabolizing enzymes involved in activation and detoxification of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

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Department of Chemical Biology, Osaka City University Medical School, Osaka, Japan.


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are ubiquitous environmental carcinogens and metabolized by a variety of xenobiotic-metabolizing enzymes such as cytochrome P450 (P450 or CYP), epoxide hydrolase, glutathione transferase, UDP-glucuronosyltransferase, sulfotransferase, NAD(P)H quinone oxidoreductase 1, and aldo-keto reductase. These enzymes mainly participate in the conversion of PAHs to more polar and water-soluble metabolites, and the resultant metabolites are readily excreted from the body. However, during the course of metabolism, a variety of unstable and reactive intermediates of PAHs are formed, and these metabolites attack DNA, causing cell toxicity and transformation. P450s and epoxide hydrolase convert PAHs to proximate carcinogenic metabolites, PAH-diols, and these products are further metabolized by P450s to ultimate carcinogenic metabolites, PAH diol-epoxides, or by aldo-keto reductase to reactive PAH o-quinones. PAHs are also activated by P450 and peroxidases to reactive radical cations that bind covalently to DNA. The oxygenated and reactive metabolites of PAHs are usually converted to more polar and detoxified products by phase II enzymes. Inter-individual differences exist in levels of expression and catalytic activities of a variety of enzymes that activate and/or detoxify PAHs in various organs of humans and these phenomena are thought to be critical in understanding the basis of individual differences in response to PAHs. Factors affecting such variations include induction and inhibition of enzymes by diverse chemicals and, more importantly, genetic polymorphisms of enzymes in humans.

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