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J Anal Toxicol. 2014 Oct;38(8):541-7. doi: 10.1093/jat/bku091.

Fatal methadone toxicity: potential role of CYP3A4 genetic polymorphism.

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Forensic Science Department, Marshall University, Huntington, WV, USA
Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, Marshall University, Huntington, WV, USA.
Department of Mathematics, Emmanuel College, Boston, MA, USA.
Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Charleston, WV, USA.
Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology, Marshall University, Huntington, WV, USA.


Methadone is difficult to administer as a therapeutic agent because of a wide range of interindividual pharmacokinetics, likely due to genetic variability of the CYP450 enzymes responsible for metabolism to its principal metabolite 2-ethylidene-1,5-dimethyl-3,3-diphenylpyrrolidine (EDDP). CYP3A4 is one of the primary CYP450 isoforms responsible for the metabolism of methadone to EDDP in humans. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the role of CYP3A4 genetic polymorphisms in accidental methadone fatalities. A study cohort consisting of 136 methadone-only and 92 combined methadone/benzodiazepine fatalities was selected from cases investigated at the West Virginia and Kentucky Offices of the Chief Medical Examiner. Seven single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were genotyped within the CYP3A4 gene. Observed allelic and genotypic frequencies were compared with expected frequencies obtained from The National Center for Biotechnology Information dbSNP database. SNPs rs2242480 and rs2740574 demonstrated an apparent enrichment within the methadone-only overdose fatalities compared with the control group and the general population. This enrichment was not apparent in the methadone/benzodiazepine cases for these two SNPs. Our findings indicate that there may be two or more SNPs on the CYP3A4 gene that cause or contribute to the methadone poor metabolizer phenotype.

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