N-glucuronidation of trans-3'-hydroxycotinine by human liver microsomes

Chem Res Toxicol. 2003 Dec;16(12):1502-6. doi: 10.1021/tx034173o.


trans-3'-Hydroxycotinine is the major nicotine metabolite excreted in the urine of smokers and other tobacco or nicotine users. On average, about 30% of the trans-3'-hydroxycotinine in urine is present as a glucuronide conjugate. The O-glucuronide of trans-3'-hydroxycotinine has been isolated from smokers urine and appears to be the major glucuronide conjugate of trans-3'-hydroxycotinine in urine. However, nicotine and cotinine are both glucuronidated at the nitrogen atom of the pyridine ring. We report here that human liver microsomes catalyze both the N-glucuronidation and the O-glucuronidation of trans-3'-hydroxycotinine. The N-glucuronide was purified by HPLC, and its structure was confirmed by NMR. Both N- and O-glucuronidation of trans-3'-hydroxycotinine were detected in 13 of 15 human liver microsome samples. The ratio of N-glucuronidation to O-glucuronidation was between 0.4 and 2.7. One sample only catalyzed N-glucuronidation, and one sample did not catalyze either reaction. The rates of N-glucuronidation varied more than 6-fold from 6 to 38.9 pmol/min/mg protein; rates of O-glucuronidation ranged from 2.8 to 23.4 pmol/min/mg protein. The rate of trans-3'-hydroxycotinine N-glucuronidation by human liver microsomes correlated well with both the rate of nicotine and the rate of cotinine N-glucuronidation. trans-3'-Hydroxycotinine O-glucuronidation correlated with neither nicotine nor cotinine N-glucuronidation. These results suggest that the same enzyme(s) that catalyzes the N-glucuronidation of nicotine and cotinine may also catalyze the N-glucuronidation of trans-3'-hydroxycotinine in the human liver but that a separate enzyme catalyzes trans-3'-hydroxycotinine O-glucuronidation.

MeSH terms

  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods
  • Cotinine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Cotinine / chemistry
  • Cotinine / metabolism*
  • Glucuronides / chemistry
  • Glucuronides / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Microsomes, Liver / metabolism*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / methods
  • Uridine Diphosphate Glucuronic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Uridine Diphosphate Glucuronic Acid / metabolism


  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Glucuronides
  • Uridine Diphosphate Glucuronic Acid
  • hydroxycotinine
  • Cotinine