The effect of liver cirrhosis on the regulation and expression of drug metabolizing enzymes

Curr Drug Metab. 2004 Apr;5(2):157-67. doi: 10.2174/1389200043489054.


Cirrhosis is the end stage of many forms of liver pathologies including hepatitis. The liver is known for its vital role in the processing of xenobiotics, including drugs and toxic compounds. Cirrhosis causes changes in the architecture of the liver leading to changes in blood flow, protein binding, and drug metabolizing enzymes. Drug metabolizing enzymes are primarily decreased due to loss of liver tissue. However, not all enzyme activities are reduced and some are only altered in specific cases. There is a great deal of discrepancy between various reports on cytochrome p450 alterations in liver cirrhosis, likely due to differences in disease severity and other underlying conditions. In general, however, CYP1A and CYP3A levels and related enzyme activities are usually reduced and CYP2C, CYP2A, and CYP2B are mostly unaltered. Both alcohol dehyrogenases and aldehyde dehydrogenases are altered in liver cirrhosis, although the etiology of the disease may determine the expression of alcohol dehydrogenases. Glucuronidation is mainly preserved, but there are a number of factors that determine whether glucuronidation is affected in patients with liver cirrhosis. Low sulphation rates are usually found in patients with liver disease but a decrease in sulfatase activity compensates for the decrease in sulphation rates. In all cases, a reduction in drug metabolizing enzyme activities in liver cirrhosis contributes to decreased clearance of drugs seen in patients with liver abnormalities. The reduction in drug metabolizing enzyme activity must be taken into consideration when adjusting doses, especially in patients with severe liver disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / biosynthesis
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes / biosynthesis
  • Liver / enzymology*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / enzymology*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / administration & dosage
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism*
  • Pharmacokinetics


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