Pharmacogenomics, regulation and signaling pathways of phase I and II drug metabolizing enzymes

Curr Drug Metab. 2002 Oct;3(5):481-90. doi: 10.2174/1389200023337171.


Drug or xenobiotics metabolizing enzymes (DMEs or XMEs) play central roles in the biotransformation, metabolism and/or detoxification of xenobiotics or foreign compounds, that are introduced to the human body. In general, DMEs protect or defend the body against the potential harmful insults from the environment. Once in the body, many xenobiotics may induce signal transduction events either specifically or non-specifically leading to various cellular, physiological and pharmacological responses including homeostasis, proliferation, differentiation, apoptosis, or necrosis. For the body to minimize the insults caused by these xenobiotics, various tissues/organs are well equipped with diverse DMEs including various Phase I and Phase II enzymes, which are present in abundance either at the basal level and/or increased/induced after exposure. To better understand the pharmacogenomic/gene expression profile of DMEs and the underlying molecular mechanisms after exposure to xenobiotics or drugs, we will review our current knowledge on DNA microarray technology in gene expression profiling and the signal transduction events elicited by various xenobiotics mediated by either specific receptors or non-specific signal transduction pathways. Pharmacogenomics is the study of genes and the gene products (proteins) essential for pharmacological or toxicological responses to pharmaceutical agents. In order to assess the battery of genes that are induced or repressed by xenobiotics and pharmaceutical agents, cDNA microarray or oligonucleotide-based DNA chip technology can be a powerful tool to analyze, simultaneously, the gene expression profiles that are induced or repressed by xenobiotics. The regulation of gene expression of the various phase I DMEs such as the cytochrome P450 (CYP) as well as phase II DMEs generally depends on the interaction of the xenobiotics with the receptors. For instance, the expression of CYP1 genes can be induced via the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) which dimerizes with the AhR nuclear translocator (ARNT), in response to many polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAHs). Similarly, the steroid family of orphan receptors, the constitutive androstane receptor (CAR) and pregnane X receptors (PXR), heterodimerize with the retinoid X receptor (RXR), transcriptionally activate the promoters of CYP2B and CYP3A gene expression by xenobiotics such as phenobarbital-like compounds (CAR) and dexamethasone and rifampin-type of agents (PXR). The peroxisome proliferator activated receptor (PPAR) which is one of the first characterized members of the nuclear hormone receptor, also dimerizes with RXR and it has been shown to be activated by lipid lowering agent fibrate-type of compounds leading to transcriptional activation of the promoters on the CYP4A genes. The transcriptional activation of these promoters generally leads to the induction of their mRNA. The physiological and the pharmacological implications of common partner of RXR for CAR, PXR, and PPAR receptors largely remain unknown and are under intense investigations. For the phase II DMEs, phase II gene inducers such as phenolic compounds butylated hydroxyanisol (BHA), tert-butylhydroquinone (tBHQ), green tea polyphenol (GTP), (-)-epicatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) and the isothiocyanates (PEITC, sulforaphane) generally appear to be electrophiles. They can activate the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway via electrophilic-mediated stress response, resulting in the activation of bZIP transcription factors Nrf2 which dimerizes with Mafs and binds to the antioxidant/electrophile response element (ARE/EpRE) enhancers which are found in many phase II DMEs as well as many cellular defensive enzymes such as thioredoxins, gammaGCS and HO-1, with the subsequent induction of gene expression of these genes. It appears that in general, exposure to phase I or phase II gene inducers or xenobiotics may trigger a cellular "stress" response leading to the increase in the gene expression of these DMEs, which ultimately enhance the elimination and clearance of the xenobiotics e xenobiotics and/or the "cellular stresses" including harmful reactive intermediates such as reactive oxygen species (ROS), so that the body will remove the "stress" expeditiously. Consequently, this homeostatic response of the body plays a central role in the protection of the organism against environmental insults such as xenobiotics. Advances in DNA microarray technologies and mammalian genome sequencing will soon allow quantitative assessment of expression profiles of all genes in the selected tissues. The ability to predict phenotypic outcomes from gene expression profiles is currently in its infancy, however, and will require additional bioinformatic tools. Such tools will facilitate information gathering from literature and gene databases as well as integration of expression data with animal physiology studies. The study of pharmacogenomic/gene expression profile and the understanding of the regulation and the signal transduction mechanisms elicited by pharmaceutical agents can be of potential importance during drug discovery and the drug development.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism*
  • Pharmacogenetics / methods*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Xenobiotics / metabolism


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Xenobiotics
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System