Cytochrome P450 2E1 and 2A6 enzymes as major catalysts for metabolic activation of N-nitrosodialkylamines and tobacco-related nitrosamines in human liver microsomes

Carcinogenesis. 1992 Oct;13(10):1789-94. doi: 10.1093/carcin/13.10.1789.


An acetyltransferase-overexpressing strain of Salmonella typhimurium (NM2009) has been used to investigate roles of human liver microsomal cytochrome P450 (P450) enzymes in the activation of carcinogenic nitrosamine derivatives, including N-nitrosodialkylamines and tobacco-smoke-related nitrosamines, to genotoxic products. Studies employing correlation of activities with several P450-dependent monooxygenase reactions in different human liver samples, inhibition of microsomal activities by antibodies raised against human P450 enzymes and by specific P450 inhibitors, and reconstitution of activities with purified P450 enzymes suggest that the tobacco-smoke-related nitrosamines 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK), 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol (NNAL) and N-nitrosonornicotine (NNN) as well as N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) and N-nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA) are oxidized to genotoxic products by different P450 enzymes, particularly P450 2E1 and 2A6. The activation of NDMA and NNN by liver microsomes was suggested to be catalyzed more actively by P450 2E1 than by other P450 enzymes because the activities were well correlated with NDMA N-demethylation and aniline p-hydroxylation in different human samples, and purified P450 2E1 had the highest activities in reconstituted monooxygenase systems. The relatively high contribution of P450 2A6 to the activation of NDEA and NNK was supported by the correlation seen with coumarin 7-hydroxylation in human liver microsomes, and antibodies raised against P450 2A6 inhibited both activities by approximately 50%. P450 3A4, 2D6 and 2C enzymes appear not to be extensively involved in the activation of these nitrosamines as judged by several criteria examined. Thus, this work indicates that several P450 enzymes, particularly P450 2E1 and 2A6, catalyze metabolic activation of nitrosamine derivatives including N-nitrosodialkylamines and tobacco-smoke-related nitrosamines in human liver microsomes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies
  • Biotransformation
  • Carcinogens / pharmacokinetics*
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2E1
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / immunology
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism*
  • Diethylnitrosamine / pharmacokinetics*
  • Dimethylnitrosamine / pharmacokinetics*
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Humans
  • Microsomes, Liver / enzymology*
  • Microsomes, Liver / metabolism
  • Nicotiana
  • Nitrosamines / pharmacokinetics*
  • Oxidoreductases, N-Demethylating / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Oxidoreductases, N-Demethylating / immunology
  • Oxidoreductases, N-Demethylating / metabolism*
  • Oxygenases / metabolism
  • Plants, Toxic
  • Rabbits


  • Antibodies
  • Carcinogens
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Nitrosamines
  • Diethylnitrosamine
  • 4-(methylnitrosoamino)-4-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol
  • 4-(N-methyl-N-nitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • Oxygenases
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2E1
  • Oxidoreductases, N-Demethylating
  • Dimethylnitrosamine
  • N'-nitrosonornicotine