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Drug Metab Dispos. 2010 Jul;38(7):1105-12. doi: 10.1124/dmd.110.032359. Epub 2010 Apr 13.

Differential roles of phase I and phase II enzymes in 3,4-methylendioxymethamphetamine-induced cytotoxicity.

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  • 1Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands.


Metabolism plays an important role in the toxic effects caused by 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). Most research has focused on the involvement of CYP2D6 enzyme in MDMA bioactivation, and less is known about the contribution of other cytochrome P450 (P450) and phase II metabolism. In this study, we researched the differential roles of phase I P450 enzymes CYP1A2, CYP3A4, and CYP2D6 and phase II enzymes glutathione S-transferase (GST) and catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) on the toxic potential of MDMA. MDMA acts as inhibitor of its own metabolism with a relative potency of inhibition of CYP2D>CYP3A>> CYP1A in rat liver microsomes and in human liver [immortalized human liver epithelial cells (THLE)] cells transfected with individual CYP1A2, CYP3A4, or CYP2D6. Cytotoxicity measurements [by 3,(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide] in THLE cells showed that the inhibition of phase I enzymes CYP1A2 by alpha-naphthoflavone and CYP3A4 by troleandomycin does not affect MDMA-induced cytotoxicity. MDMA metabolism by CYP2D6 significantly increased cytotoxicity, which was counteracted by CYP2D6 inhibition by quinidine. Inhibition of COMT by 2'-fluoro-3,4-dihydroxy-5-nitrobenzophenone (Ro-41-0960) and GST by buthionine sulfoximine showed that COMT is mainly involved in detoxification of CYP2D6-formed MDMA metabolites, whereas glutathione (GSH) is mainly involved in detoxification of CYP3A4-formed MDMA metabolites. Liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry analyses of MDMA-metabolites in the THLE cell culture media confirmed formation of the specific MDMA metabolites and corroborated the observed cytotoxicity. Our data suggest that CYP2D6 as well as CYP3A4 play an important role in MDMA bioactivation. In addition, further studies are needed to address the differential roles of CYP3A4 and GSH/GST in MDMA bioactivation and detoxification.

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