Drug-protein adducts: an industry perspective on minimizing the potential for drug bioactivation in drug discovery and development

Chem Res Toxicol. 2004 Jan;17(1):3-16. doi: 10.1021/tx034170b.


It is generally accepted that there is neither a well-defined nor a consistent link between the formation of drug-protein adducts and organ toxicity. Because the potential does exist, however, for these processes to be causally related, the general strategy at Merck Research Laboratories has been to minimize reactive metabolite formation to the extent possible by appropriate structural modification during the lead optimization stage. This requires a flexible approach to defining bioactivation issues in a variety of metabolism vectors and typically involves the initial use of small molecule trapping agents to define the potential for bioactivation. At some point, however, there is a requirement to synthesize a radiolabeled tracer and to undertake covalent binding studies in vitro, usually in liver microsomal (and sometimes hepatocyte) preparations from preclinical species and human, and also in vivo, typically in the rat. This paper serves to provide one pragmatic approach to addressing the issue of bioactivation from an industry viewpoint based on protocols adopted by Merck Research Laboratories. The availability of a dedicated Labeled Compound Synthesis group, coupled to a close working relationship between Drug Metabolism and Medicinal Chemistry, represents a framework within which this perspective becomes viable; the overall aim is to bring safer drugs to patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biotransformation*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / standards
  • Drug Design
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / standards
  • Drug Industry / standards*
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions / diagnosis
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Protein Binding
  • Research / standards*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Structure-Activity Relationship