Determination of N-acetylation phenotyping in a Greek population using caffeine as a metabolic probe

Eur J Drug Metab Pharmacokinet. 1998 Oct-Dec;23(4):501-6. doi: 10.1007/BF03190002.


Studies of isoniazid, the well known antituberculosis drug, have revealed that N-acetylation polymorphism, is of great clinical importance. In humans, N-acetylation is one of the most important pathways in the inactivation of isoniazid. Caffeine, which is also biotransformed by N-acetylation, has been widely used as an in vivo probe for the assessment of N-acetyltransferase polymorphism. The activity of N-acetyltransferase can be estimated from the urinary metabolic ratio of two caffeine metabolites, namely, 5-acetylamino-6-formylamino-3-methyluracil (AFMU), and 1-methylxanthine (1X) after the ingestion of caffeine. In the present study caffeine was used as a metabolic probe to determine N-acetyltransferase polymorphism in 83 healthy Greek volunteers by means of the molar ratio of AFMU and IX determined in urine following ingestion of 200 mg caffeine. Frequency distribution analysis of the metabolic ratios AFMU/1X revealed two distinct groups with 66.3% (n = 55) slow acetylators and 33.7 % (n = 28) rapid acetylators. No statistically significant difference was detected between slow and fast acetylators in terms of gender, smoking habits and caffeine-intake habits. These results are in agreement with previous studies on N-acetyltransferase activity in Caucasians using caffeine as a metabolic probe. They also agree with reports on N-acetyltransferase activity in Greek tuberculosis patients using isoniazid as a metabolic probe. Thus, the use of caffeine as a metabolic probe is a reliable method for the assessment of N-acetyltransferase activity in the Greek population.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Adult
  • Arylamine N-Acetyltransferase / genetics
  • Arylamine N-Acetyltransferase / metabolism*
  • Caffeine / metabolism*
  • Caffeine / pharmacokinetics
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / metabolism*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacokinetics
  • Cohort Studies
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Female
  • Greece
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phenotype
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Smoking
  • Uracil / analogs & derivatives
  • Uracil / urine
  • Xanthines / urine


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Xanthines
  • Caffeine
  • Uracil
  • 1-methylxanthine
  • 5-acetylamino-6-formylamino-3-methyluracil
  • Arylamine N-Acetyltransferase