Metabolism of thalidomide in human microsomes, cloned human cytochrome P-450 isozymes, and Hansen's disease patients

J Biochem Mol Toxicol. 2000;14(3):140-7. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1099-0461(2000)14:3<140::aid-jbt3>;2-p.


Previous in vitro studies in rat microsomal preparations suggested that thalidomide is metabolized by the cytochrome P450 system (CYP). In this study, we examined the extent of thalidomide metabolism by preparations of pooled human microsomes, microsomes containing cloned human CYP isozymes (CYPIA2, CYP2A6, CYP2B6, CYP2C9, CYP2C19, CYP2D6, CYP2E1, CYP3A4), and Hansen's disease patients. Results indicated that thalidomide was a poor substrate for CYP isozymes. Alteration of incubation buffer, pH, incubation time, and microsome and thalidomide concentrations did not increase the production of any metabolites. Thalidomide also did not inhibit metabolism of CYP-specific substrates and therefore any interactions with other drugs that are metabolized by the same enzyme system are unlikely. Hansen's patients were given a single oral dose of thalidomide (400 mg), and their blood and urine were collected at time points up to 72 hours, processed, and analyzed by tandem mass spectrometry. Although thalidomide was present in the plasma and urine, no metabolites were found in the plasma and very low amounts of the 5-OH thalidomide metabolite were present in the urine. These results suggest that thalidomide does not undergo significant metabolism by human CYP and that clinically important interactions between thalidomide and drugs that are also metabolized by this enzyme system are unlikely. The major route of thalidomide breakdown in humans and animals is through spontaneous hydrolysis with subsequent elimination in the urine.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism*
  • Leprosy / metabolism*
  • Microsomes, Liver / enzymology
  • Microsomes, Liver / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Thalidomide / pharmacokinetics*


  • Isoenzymes
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Thalidomide
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System