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Chem Res Toxicol. 2008 Sep;21(9):1814-22. doi: 10.1021/tx800161s. Epub 2008 Aug 9.

Can in vitro metabolism-dependent covalent binding data in liver microsomes distinguish hepatotoxic from nonhepatotoxic drugs? An analysis of 18 drugs with consideration of intrinsic clearance and daily dose.

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Pharmacokinetics, Dynamics and Metabolism Department, Pfizer Global Research and Development, Groton, Connecticut 06340, USA.


In vitro covalent binding assessments of drugs have been useful in providing retrospective insights into the association between drug metabolism and a resulting toxicological response. On the basis of these studies, it has been advocated that in vitro covalent binding to liver microsomal proteins in the presence and the absence of NADPH be used routinely to screen drug candidates. However, the utility of this approach in predicting toxicities of drug candidates accurately remains an unanswered question. Importantly, the years of research that have been invested in understanding metabolic bioactivation and covalent binding and its potential role in toxicity have focused only on those compounds that demonstrate toxicity. Investigations have not frequently queried whether in vitro covalent binding could be observed with drugs with good safety records. Eighteen drugs (nine hepatotoxins and nine nonhepatotoxins in humans) were assessed for in vitro covalent binding in NADPH-supplemented human liver microsomes. Of the two sets of nine drugs, seven in each set were shown to undergo some degree of covalent binding. Among hepatotoxic drugs, acetaminophen, carbamazepine, diclofenac, indomethacin, nefazodone, sudoxicam, and tienilic acid demonstrated covalent binding, while benoxaprofen and felbamate did not. Of the nonhepatotoxic drugs evaluated, buspirone, diphenhydramine, meloxicam, paroxetine, propranolol, raloxifene, and simvastatin demonstrated covalent binding, while ibuprofen and theophylline did not. A quantitative comparison of covalent binding in vitro intrinsic clearance did not separate the two groups of compounds, and in fact, paroxetine, a nonhepatotoxin, showed the greatest amount of covalent binding in microsomes. Including factors such as the fraction of total metabolism comprised by covalent binding and the total daily dose of each drug improved the discrimination between hepatotoxic and nontoxic drugs based on in vitro covalent binding data; however, the approach still would falsely identify some agents as potentially hepatotoxic.

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