Genetic polymorphisms of human N-acetyltransferase, cytochrome P450, glutathione-S-transferase, and epoxide hydrolase enzymes: relevance to xenobiotic metabolism and toxicity

Crit Rev Toxicol. 1999 Jan;29(1):59-124. doi: 10.1080/10408449991349186.


In this review, an overview is presented of the current knowledge of genetic polymorphisms of four of the most important enzyme families involved in the metabolism of xenobiotics, that is, the N-acetyltransferase (NAT), cytochrome P450 (P450), glutathione-S-transferase (GST), and microsomal epoxide hydrolase (mEH) enzymes. The emphasis is on two main topics, the molecular genetics of the polymorphisms and the consequences for xenobiotic metabolism and toxicity. Studies are described in which wild-type and mutant alleles of biotransformation enzymes have been expressed in heterologous systems to study the molecular genetics and the metabolism and pharmacological or toxicological effects of xenobiotics. Furthermore, studies are described that have investigated the effects of genetic polymorphisms of biotransformation enzymes on the metabolism of drugs in humans and on the metabolism of genotoxic compounds in vivo as well. The effects of the polymorphisms are highly dependent on the enzyme systems involved and the compounds being metabolized. Several polymorphisms are described that also clearly influence the metabolism and effects of drugs and toxic compounds, in vivo in humans. Future perspectives in studies on genetic polymorphisms of biotransformation enzymes are also discussed. It is concluded that genetic polymorphisms of biotransformation enzymes are in a number of cases a major factor involved in the interindividual variability in xenobiotic metabolism and toxicity. This may lead to interindividual variability in efficacy of drugs and disease susceptibility.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arylamine N-Acetyltransferase / genetics*
  • Arylamine N-Acetyltransferase / metabolism
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / genetics*
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism
  • Epoxide Hydrolases / genetics*
  • Epoxide Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Glutathione Transferase / genetics*
  • Glutathione Transferase / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Xenobiotics / metabolism*
  • Xenobiotics / pharmacokinetics
  • Xenobiotics / toxicity*


  • Xenobiotics
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • Arylamine N-Acetyltransferase
  • Glutathione Transferase
  • Epoxide Hydrolases