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Drug Metab Dispos. 2016 Dec;44(12):1963-1972. doi: 10.1124/dmd.116.071902. Epub 2016 Oct 6.

Tramadol metabolism to O-desmethyl tramadol (M1) and N-desmethyl tramadol (M2) by dog liver microsomes: Species comparison and identification of responsible canine cytochrome P-450s (CYPs).

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Washington State University;
Washington State University.
Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine.


Tramadol is widely used to manage mild to moderately painful conditions in dogs. However, this use is controversial since clinical efficacy studies in dogs showed conflicting results, while pharmacokinetic studies demonstrated relatively low circulating concentrations of O-desmethyltramadol (M1). Analgesia has been attributed to the opioid effects of M1, while tramadol and the other major metabolite (N-desmethyltramadol, M2) are considered inactive at opioid receptors. The aims of this study were to determine whether cytochrome P450 (CYP) dependent M1 formation by dog liver microsomes is slower compared with cat and human liver microsomes; and identify the CYPs responsible for M1 and M2 formation in canine liver. Since tramadol is used as a racemic mixture of (+)- and (-)-stereoisomers, both (+)-tramadol and (-)- tramadol were evaluated as substrates. M1 formation from tramadol by liver microsomes from dogs was slower than from cats (3.9-fold), but faster than humans (7-fold). However, M2 formation by liver microsomes from dogs was faster than from cats (4.8-fold) and humans (19-fold). Recombinant canine CYP activities indicated that M1 was formed by CYP2D15, while M2 was largely formed by CYP2B11 and CYP3A12. This was confirmed by dog liver microsomes studies that showed selective inhibition of M1 formation by quinidine and M2 formation by chloramphenicol and CYP2B11 antiserum, and induction of M2 formation by phenobarbital. Findings were similar for both (+)-tramadol and (-)-tramadol. In conclusion, low circulating M1 concentrations in dogs is explained in part by low M1 formation and high M2 formation, which are mediated by CYP2D15 and CYP2B11/CYP3A12, respectively.


HPLC; animal/nonclinical/preclinical; cytochrome P450; enzyme induction; enzyme inhibitors; mass spectrometry/MS

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