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Biochem Pharmacol. 1988 Jul 1;37(13):2683-90.

Studies on the mechanisms of oxidation in the erythrocyte by metabolites of primaquine.

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Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, University of Liverpool, U.K.


The interaction of certain metabolites of the 8-aminoquinoline antimalarial primaquine with both normal and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD)-deficient erythrocytes and with haemoglobin preparations was studied in an attempt to elucidate the mechanisms of methaemoglobin formation and haemolytic anaemia associated with the use of primaquine. Studies using erythrocytes revealed that oxidation of haemoglobin and reduced glutathione (GSH) was due to the metabolites rather than the parent drug. Incubation of free haemoglobin with 5-hydroxylated metabolites of primaquine also led to oxidation of oxyhaemoglobin and GSH. Oxidation of GSH also occurred in the absence of oxyhaemoglobin. The results suggest a dual mechanism for these oxidative effects, involving autoxidation of the 5-hydroxy-8-aminoquinolines and their coupled oxidation with oxyhaemoglobin. The initial products of these processes would be drug metabolite free radicals, superoxide radical anions, hydrogen peroxide and methaemoglobin. Further free radical reactions would lead to oxidation of GSH, more haemoglobin and probably other cellular constituents. NADPH had no effect on the oxidative effects of the primaquine metabolites in these experiments. In the G6PD-deficient erythrocyte, the oxidation of haemoglobin and GSH leads to Heinz body formation and eventually to haemolysis, the mechanisms of which are as yet unclear. The possible role of oxygen free radicals in the mode of action of 8-aminoquinolines against the malaria parasite is also briefly discussed.

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