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Xenobiotica. 2012 Nov;42(11):1088-95. doi: 10.3109/00498254.2012.693972. Epub 2012 Jun 6.

In vitro metabolism of piperaquine is primarily mediated by CYP3A4.

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School of Clinical Pharmacy, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA.


Piperaquine (PQ) is part of a first-line treatment regimen for Plasmodium falciparum malaria recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). We aimed to determine the major metabolic pathway(s) of PQ in vitro. A reliable, validated tandem mass spectrometry method was developed. Concentrations of PQ were measured after incubation with both human liver microsomes (HLMs) and expressed cytochrome P450 enzymes (P450s). In pooled HLMs, incubations with an initial PQ concentration of 0.3 µM resulted in a 34.8 ± 4.9% loss of substrate over 60 min, corresponding to a turnover rate of 0.009 min(-1) (r(2) = 0.9223). Miconazole, at nonspecific P450 inhibitory concentrations, resulted in almost complete inhibition of PQ metabolism. The greatest inhibition was demonstrated with selective CYP3A4 (100%) and CYP2C8 (66%) inhibitors. Using a mixture of recombinant P450 enzymes, turnover for PQ metabolism was estimated as 0.0099 min(-1); recombinant CYP3A4 had a higher metabolic rate (0.017 min(-1)) than recombinant CYP2C8 (p < .0001). Inhibition of CYP3A4-mediated PQ loss was greatest using the selective inhibitor ketoconazole (9.1 ± 3.5% loss with ketoconazole vs 60.7 ± 5.9% with no inhibitor, p < .0001). In summary, the extent of inhibition of in vitro metabolism with ketoconazole (83%) denotes that PQ appears to be primarily catalyzed by CYP3A4. Further studies to support these findings through the identification and characterization of PQ metabolites are planned.

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