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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2011 Jan;35(1):132-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2010.01330.x. Epub 2010 Oct 6.

Effect of alcohol on drug efflux protein and drug metabolic enzymes in U937 macrophages.

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University of Missouri-Kansas City, 64108, USA.



ATP-binding cassette (ABC) proteins and cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes regulate the bioavailability of HIV-1 antiretroviral therapeutic drugs, non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs), and protease inhibitors (PIs). They are also involved in regulating, and responding to, oxidative stress in various tissues and organs including liver. This study is designed to assess the effect of alcohol on the ABCC1 and CYP enzymes involved in the metabolism of NNRTIs and PIs (CYP2B6, CYP2D6, and CYP3A4) and oxidative stress (CYP1A1, CYP2A6, and CYP2E1) in U937 macrophages. The U937 cell line has been utilized as an in vitro model of human macrophages.


The expression levels of the ABCC1 and CYP enzymes in U937 macrophages were characterized in terms of mRNA quantification, protein analysis, and assays for functional activity. In addition, oxidative stress was monitored by measuring the activities of oxidative stress marker enzymes and production of reactive oxygen species (ROS).


The order of mRNA expression in U937 macrophages was ABCC1 ∼ CYP2A6 > CYP3A4 ∼ CYP2E1 ∼ CYP1A1 > CYP2D6 > CYP2B6. Alcohol (100 mM) increased the mRNA levels of ABCC1 and CYP2A6 (200%), CYP2B6 and CYP3A4 (150%), and CYP2E1 (400%) compared with the control. Alcohol caused significant upregulation of ABCC1, CYP2A6, CYP2E1, and CYP3A4 proteins (50 to 85%) and showed >50% increase in the specific activity of CYP2A6 and CYP3A4 in U937 macrophages. Furthermore, alcohol increased the production of ROS and significantly enhanced the activity of oxidative stress marker enzymes, superoxide dismutase, and catalase in U937 macrophages.


Our study showed that alcohol causes increases in the genetic and functional expressions of ABCC1 and CYP enzymes in U937 macrophages. This study has clinical implications in alcoholic HIV-1 individuals, because alcohol consumption is reported to reduce the therapeutic efficacy of NNRTIs and PIs and increases oxidative stress.

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