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Int J Cancer. 2012 Mar 15;130(6):1338-46. doi: 10.1002/ijc.26162. Epub 2011 Aug 3.

Genetic variability in the metabolism of the tobacco-specific nitrosamine 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK) to 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol (NNAL).

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  • 1Department of Environmental Health, Environmental and Occupational Medicine and Epidemiology (EOME) Program, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Urinary metabolites of the tobacco-specific nitrosamine 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK), 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol (NNAL) and its glucuronides, termed total NNAL, have recently been shown to be good predictors of lung cancer risk, years before diagnosis. We sought to determine the contribution of several genetic polymorphisms to total NNAL output and inter-individual variability. The study subjects were derived from the Harvard/Massachusetts General Hospital Lung cancer case-control study. We analyzed 87 self-described smokers (35 lung cancer cases and 52 controls), with urine samples collected at time of diagnosis (1992-1996). We tested 82 tagging SNPs in 16 genes related to the metabolism of NNK to total NNAL. Using weighted case status least squares regression, we tested for the association of each SNP with square-root (sqrt) transformed total NNAL (pmol per mg creatinine), controlling for age, sex, sqrt packyears and sqrt nicotine (ng per mg creatinine). After a sqrt transformation, nicotine significantly predicted a 0.018 (0.014, 0.023) pmol/mg creatinine unit increase in total NNAL for every ng/mg creatinine increase in nicotine at p < 10E-16. Three HSD11B1 SNPs and AKR1C4 rs7083869 were significantly associated with decreasing total NNAL levels: HSD11B1 rs2235543 (p = 4.84E-08) and rs3753519 (p = 0.0017) passed multiple testing adjustment at FDR q = 1.13E-05 and 0.07 respectively, AKR1C4 rs7083869 (p = 0.019) did not, FDR q = 0.51. HSD11B1 and AKR1C4 enzymes are carbonyl reductases directly involved in the single step reduction of NNK to NNAL. The HSD11B1 SNPs may be correlated with the functional variant rs13306401 and the AKR1C4 SNP is correlated with the enzyme activity reducing variant rs17134592, L311V.

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