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Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2008 Dec 15;233(3):420-7. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2008.09.017. Epub 2008 Oct 1.

Metabolism of the anti-tuberculosis drug ethionamide by mouse and human FMO1, FMO2 and FMO3 and mouse and human lung microsomes.

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Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331-7301, USA.


Tuberculosis (TB) results from infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis and remains endemic throughout the world with one-third of the world's population infected. The prevalence of multi-drug resistant strains necessitates the use of more toxic second-line drugs such as ethionamide (ETA), a pro-drug requiring bioactivation to exert toxicity. M. tuberculosis possesses a flavin monooxygenase (EtaA) that oxygenates ETA first to the sulfoxide and then to 2-ethyl-4-amidopyridine, presumably through a second oxygenation involving sulfinic acid. ETA is also a substrate for mammalian flavin-containing monooxygenases (FMOs). We examined activity of expressed human and mouse FMOs toward ETA, as well as liver and lung microsomes. All FMOs converted ETA to the S-oxide (ETASO), the first step in bioactivation. Compared to M. tuberculosis, the second S-oxygenation to the sulfinic acid is slow. Mouse liver and lung microsomes, as well as human lung microsomes from an individual expressing active FMO, oxygenated ETA in the same manner as expressed FMOs, confirming this reaction functions in the major target organs for therapeutics (lung) and toxicity (liver). Inhibition by thiourea, and lack of inhibition by SKF-525A, confirm ETASO formation is primarily via FMO, particularly in lung. ETASO production was attenuated in a concentration-dependent manner by glutathione. FMO3 in human liver may contribute to the toxicity and/or affect efficacy of ETA administration. Additionally, there may be therapeutic implications of efficacy and toxicity in human lung based on the FMO2 genetic polymorphism, though further studies are needed to confirm that suggestion.

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