The human glutathione S-transferase supergene family, its polymorphism, and its effects on susceptibility to lung cancer

Environ Health Perspect. 1992 Nov;98:87-94. doi: 10.1289/ehp.929887.


Cytosolic glutathione S-transferases (GSTs) are a supergene family of dimeric enzymes capable of detoxifying a number of carcinogenic electrophiles. Of the numerous components of tobacco smoke, the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons appear to be the principal compounds that yield substrates for these enzymes, GSTM1-1 being effective with those PAH derivatives so far studied; however, the gene locus for GSTM1 is polymorphic, containing two well-characterized expressing genes and a null allele. Use of cDNA for GSTM1-1 or appropriate fragments of genomic clones as probes in Southern blots indicated that the null allele is due to the absence of GSTM1. In preliminary experiments, described here, with lung tissue from smokers, levels of 32P-postlabeled nuclease P1-enhanced DNA adducts were inversely correlated with levels of antigen cross-reacting with antibody to GSTM1-1, suggesting that initiation depends on the expression of GSTM1-1. Since similar quantities of DNA adducts and GSTM1-1 activity have been shown to occur in bronchial and peripheral lung, however, the development of malignancy, which is usually in the bronchial region, presumably depends on additional factors that bring about promotion and progression, which are not necessarily affected by GSTM1 expression. Two epidemiological studies have been carried out in which a possible correlation between the absence of GSTM1 and lung cancer incidence is considered. In the first, involving a U.S. population sample, smokers with and without lung cancer were phenotyped, and a highly significant correlation between the absence of GSTM1-1 activity and adenocarcinoma of the lung was observed.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / metabolism*
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Genotype
  • Glutathione Transferase / genetics
  • Glutathione Transferase / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Lung / enzymology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / genetics
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Rats
  • Smoking / metabolism*


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • DNA
  • Glutathione Transferase