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Mol Pharmacol. 2008 Mar;73(3):1029-36. Epub 2007 Dec 21.

Midazolam metabolism in cytochrome P450 3A knockout mice can be attributed to up-regulated CYP2C enzymes.

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Division of Experimental Therapy, The Netherlands Cancer Institute, Plesmanlaan 121, 1066 CX Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


The cytochrome P450 3A (CYP3A) enzymes represent one of the most important drug-metabolizing systems in humans. Recently, our group has generated cytochrome P450 3A knockout mice to study this drug-handling system in vivo. In the present study, we have characterized the Cyp3a knockout mice by studying the metabolism of midazolam, one of the most widely used probes to assess CYP3A activity. We expected that the midazolam metabolism would be severely reduced in the absence of CYP3A enzymes. We used hepatic and intestinal microsomal preparations from Cyp3a knockout and wild-type mice to assess the midazolam metabolism in vitro. In addition, in vivo metabolite formation was determined after intravenous administration of midazolam. We were surprised to find that our results demonstrated that there is still marked midazolam metabolism in hepatic (but not intestinal) microsomes from Cyp3a knockout mice. Accordingly, we found comparable amounts of midazolam as well as its major metabolites in plasma after intravenous administration in Cyp3a knockout mice compared with wild-type mice. These data suggested that other hepatic cytochrome P450 enzymes could take over the midazolam metabolism in Cyp3a knockout mice. We provide evidence that CYP2C enzymes, which were found to be up-regulated in Cyp3a knockout mice, are primarily responsible for this metabolism and that several but not all murine CYP2C enzymes are capable of metabolizing midazolam to its 1'-OH and/or 4-OH derivatives. These data illustrate interesting compensatory changes that may occur in Cyp3a knockout mice. Such flexible compensatory interplay between functionally related detoxifying systems is probably essential to their biological role in xenobiotic protection.

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