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Mol Pharmacol. 2001 Nov;60(5):1040-8.

Simultaneous expression of guinea pig UDP-glucuronosyltransferase 2B21 and 2B22 in COS-7 cells enhances UDP-glucuronosyltransferase 2B21-catalyzed morphine-6-glucuronide formation.

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Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kyushu University, Maidashi, Higashi-ku, Fukuoka, Japan.


Although UDP-glucuronosyltransferases (UGTs) act as an important detoxification system for many endogenous and exogenous compounds, they are also involved in the metabolic activation of morphine to form morphine-6-glucuronide (M-6-G). The cDNAs encoding guinea pig liver UGT2B21 and UGT2B22, which are intimately involved in M-6-G formation, have been cloned and characterized. Although some evidence suggests that UGTs may function as oligomers, it is not known whether hetero-oligomer formation leads to differences in substrate specificity. In this work, evidence for a functional hetero-oligomer between UGT2B21 and UGT2B22 is provided by studies on the glucuronidation of morphine in transfected COS-7 cells. Cells transfected with UGT2B21 cDNA catalyzed mainly morphine-3-glucuronide formation although M-6-G was also formed to some extent. In contrast, cells transfected with UGT2B22 cDNA did not show any significant activity toward morphine. When UGT2B21 and UGT2B22 were expressed simultaneously in different ratios in COS-7 cells, extensive M-6-G formation was observed. This stimulation of M-6-G formation was not observed, however, when microsomes containing UGT2B21were mixed with those containing UGT2B22 in the presence of detergent. Furthermore, this effect was not very marked when human UGT1A1 and UGT2B21 were coexpressed in COS-7 cells. This is the first report suggesting that UGT hetero-oligomer formation leads to altered substrate specificity.

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