Impact of cellular metabolism on the biological effects of benzo[a]pyrene and related hydrocarbons

Drug Metab Rev. 2001 Feb;33(1):1-35. doi: 10.1081/dmr-100000138.


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are ubiquitous contaminants in the environment. Benzo[a]pyrene (BaP), a prototypical member of this class of chemicals, has been extensively studied for its toxic effects in laboratory animals and human populations. BaP toxicity is often mediated by oxidative metabolism to reactive intermediates that interact with macromolecules leading to alterations in target cell structure and function. More recent evidence suggests that disruption of cellular signaling pathways involved in the regulation of growth and differentiation contribute significantly to the toxicity of BaP and its metabolites. This review summarizes recent advances in our understanding of biological mechanisms of BaP toxicity at the molecular level, and the role of metabolic intermediates in carcinogenesis, atherogenesis, and teratogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Benzo(a)pyrene / metabolism
  • Benzo(a)pyrene / pharmacokinetics*
  • Benzo(a)pyrene / toxicity*
  • Biotransformation
  • Carcinogens / metabolism
  • Carcinogens / pharmacokinetics
  • Carcinogens / toxicity
  • Environmental Pollutants / metabolism
  • Environmental Pollutants / pharmacokinetics
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / metabolism
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / pharmacokinetics*
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / toxicity*


  • Carcinogens
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Benzo(a)pyrene