Microsomal metabolism of N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide (DEET, DET): the extended network of metabolites

Xenobiotica. 1999 Apr;29(4):409-16. doi: 10.1080/004982599238588.


1. The aim was to set out to establish the complete network of metabolites arising from the phenobarbital-treated rat liver microsomal oxidation of N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide (DEET). The products formed from DEET and all its subsequent metabolites were identified by HPLC retention times, UV spectroscopy, mass spectrometry and by comparison with authentic standards. 2. DEET (1a) produces three major metabolites, N-ethyl-m-toluamide (1b), N,N-diethyl-m-(hydroxymethyl)benzamide (2a) and N-ethyl-m-(hydroxymethyl)benzamide (2b), and, at low substrate concentrations or extended reaction times, two minor metabolites, toluamide (1c) and N,N-diethyl-m-formylbenzamide (3a). 1b and 2a are primary metabolites and their formation follows Michaelis-Menten-type kinetics. At low DEET concentrations, ring methyl group oxidation is favoured; at saturation concentrations, methyl group oxidation and N-deethylation proceed at similar rates. The rate of formation of 2b decreases with increasing DEET concentration; 2b is therefore a secondary metabolite of DEET and DEET acts as a competitive inhibitor of the metabolism of 1b and 2a. 3. Except for the primary amides, where N-dealkylation is impossible, metabolism of all subsequent compounds, 1b,c, 2a-c, 3a-c and 4a,b, involves an N-deethylation (NEt2 --> NHEt or NHEt --> NH2) competitive with a ring substituent oxidation (CH3 --> CH2OH, CH2OH --> CHO or CHO --> CO2H). Surprisingly, the aldehydes 3a-c are also reduced to the corresponding alcohols 2a-c (CHO --> CH2OH); CO inhibits the oxidative metabolism of 3a-c, but reduction to 2a-c continues uninhibited. 4. The outcomes of this work are that (1) previously unreported aldehydes 3b and 3c form part of the DEET network of metabolites, (2) the reduction of the aldehydes 3a-c has the potential to inhibit the formation of the more highly oxidized DEET metabolites, (3) amide hydrolysis was not observed for any substrate and (4) no evidence was obtained for N-(1-hydroxyethyl)amide intermediates.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DEET / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Insect Repellents / pharmacology*
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Microsomes, Liver / drug effects*
  • Microsomes, Liver / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Insect Repellents
  • DEET