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Eur J Pharmacol. 1994 Jan 3;270(1):35-43.

Cocaine N-demethylation and the metabolism-related hepatotoxicity can be prevented by cytochrome P450 3A inhibitors.

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Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Kuopio, Finland.


Cocaine is eliminated and detoxified principally through the metabolism of nonspecific plasma and tissue esterases. Microsomal oxidative metabolism is of importance in cocaine N-demethylation, this being a principal pathway of cocaine bioactivation and hepatotoxicity. The contribution of different cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes to cocaine N-demethylase activity was studied in vitro with DBA/2 mouse and human liver microsomes, and cocaine hepatotoxicity was examined in vivo in DBA/2 male mice. Species dependent enzyme kinetics was observed. Cocaine N-demethylase displayed two Km values in murine liver (40-60 microM and 2-3 mM), whereas only one Km value was observed in human liver microsomes (2.3-2.7 mM). We suggest that CYP3A plays a prominent role in the N-demethylation of cocaine for the following reasons: (i) pregnenolone-16 alpha-carbonitrile, an inducer of CYP3As increases cocaine N-demethylase in parallel with testosterone 6 beta-hydroxylase activity and immunoreactive 3A protein in mouse liver; (ii) human and mouse cocaine N-demethylase and testosterone 6 beta-hydroxylase activities can be inhibited by triacetyloleandomycin, cannabidiol, or gestodene, all selective inhibitors of CYP3A P450s; (iii) antibodies directed against P450s within subfamilies 1A, 2A, 2B, 2C, or 2E inhibited cocaine N-demethylase activity only marginally, and finally, (iv) treatment of mice with triacetyloleandomycin or cannabidiol in vivo significantly attenuated the cocaine-elicited hepatotoxicity as assessed by the serum alanine aminotransferase activity and liver histology in parallel with decreased cocaine N-demethylase activity.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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