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Drug Metab Dispos. 2010 Jul;38(7):1218-29. doi: 10.1124/dmd.109.031393. Epub 2010 Mar 24.

Efavirenz primary and secondary metabolism in vitro and in vivo: identification of novel metabolic pathways and cytochrome P450 2A6 as the principal catalyst of efavirenz 7-hydroxylation.

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Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana 46202, USA.


Efavirenz primary and secondary metabolism was investigated in vitro and in vivo. In human liver microsome (HLM) samples, 7- and 8-hydroxyefavirenz accounted for 22.5 and 77.5% of the overall efavirenz metabolism, respectively. Kinetic, inhibition, and correlation analyses in HLM samples and experiments in expressed cytochrome P450 show that CYP2A6 is the principal catalyst of efavirenz 7-hydroxylation. Although CYP2B6 was the main enzyme catalyzing efavirenz 8-hydroxylation, CYP2A6 also seems to contribute. Both 7- and 8-hydroxyefavirenz were further oxidized to novel dihydroxylated metabolite(s) primarily by CYP2B6. These dihydroxylated metabolite(s) were not the same as 8,14-dihydroxyefavirenz, a metabolite that has been suggested to be directly formed via 14-hydroxylation of 8-hydroxyefavirenz, because 8,14-dihydroxyefavirenz was not detected in vitro when efavirenz, 7-, or 8-hydroxyefavirenz were used as substrates. Efavirenz and its primary and secondary metabolites that were identified in vitro were quantified in plasma samples obtained from subjects taking a single 600-mg oral dose of efavirenz. 8,14-Dihydroxyefavirenz was detected and quantified in these plasma samples, suggesting that the glucuronide or the sulfate of 8-hydroxyefavirenz might undergo 14-hydroxylation in vivo. In conclusion, efavirenz metabolism is complex, involving unique and novel secondary metabolism. Although efavirenz 8-hydroxylation by CYP2B6 remains the major clearance mechanism of efavirenz, CYP2A6-mediated 7-hydroxylation (and to some extent 8-hydroxylation) may also contribute. Efavirenz may be a valuable dual phenotyping tool to study CYP2B6 and CYP2A6, and this should be further tested in vivo.

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