Objectives: Polymorphisms in UDP-glucuronosyltransferases (UGTs) can influence detoxifying capacities and have considerable therapeutic implications in addition to influence various (patho)physiological processes. UGT1A9 plays a central role in the metabolism of various classes of therapeutic drugs in addition to carcinogens and steroids. The great interindividual variability of UGT1A9-mediated glucuronidation remains poorly explained, while evidence for its genetic origin exists.
Methods: The proximal UGT1A9 promoter was screened for polymorphisms by sequencing and, the contribution of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to the variability of UGT1A9 protein levels and activity was evaluated.
Results: We confirmed the presence of the -109 to -98 T10 polymorphism and found ten novel SNPs that generated a diversity of haplotypes in two independent populations. In a panel of 48 human liver microsomes, the UGT1A9 expression varied by 17-fold and was significantly correlated with SNPs -275, -331/-440, -665 and -2152. The base insertion T10 reported to increase reporter gene expression in HepG2 cells  was not linked to -275 and -2152 SNPs and was not associated with changes in UGT1A9 protein levels. Compared to wild-type individuals, there were statistically significant higher glucuronidating activities in livers with the -275 and -2152 using mycophenolic acid and propofol as UGT1A9 substrates, indicating an extensive glucuronidator phenotype associated with these variants.
Conclusions: This is the first study to demonstrate that naturally occurring sequence variations in the UGT1A9 promoter are informative in predicting the levels of protein and glucuronidating activity, providing a potential mechanism for interindividual variation in UGT1A9-mediated metabolism.