Hydrolytic metabolism of pyrethroids by human and other mammalian carboxylesterases

Biochem Pharmacol. 2006 Feb 28;71(5):657-69. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2005.11.020. Epub 2006 Jan 4.


Pyrethroid chemicals are attractive alternatives to the organophosphates (OPs) because of their selective toxicity against pests rather than mammals. The carboxylesterases (CEs) are hepatic enzymes that metabolize ester-containing xenobiotics such as pyrethroids. The primary aim of this study was to gain insight into the catalytic properties of the CE enzymes in humans that metabolize pyrethroids, while a secondary aim was to investigate pyrethroid metabolism using CEs from other mammalian species. Pure human CEs (hCE-1 and hCE-2), a rabbit CE (rCE), and two rat CEs (Hydrolases A and B) were used to study the hydrolytic metabolism of the following pyrethroids: 1Rtrans-resmethrin (bioresmethrin), 1RStrans-permethrin, and 1RScis-permethrin. hCE-1 and hCE-2 hydrolyzed trans-permethrin 8- and 28-fold more efficiently than cis-permethrin (when k(cat)/K(m) values were compared), respectively. In contrast, hydrolysis of bioresmethrin was catalyzed efficiently by hCE-1, but not by hCE-2. The kinetic parameters for the pure rat and rabbit CEs were qualitatively similar to the human CEs when hydrolysis rates of the investigated pyrethroids were evaluated. Further, a comparison of pyrethroid hydrolysis by hepatic microsomes from rats, mice, and humans indicated that the rates for each compound were similar between species, which further supports the use of rodent models for pyrethroid metabolism studies. An eight-fold range in hydrolytic rates for 11 individual human liver samples toward trans-permethrin was also found, although this variability was not related to the levels of hCE-1 protein in each sample. We also determined that the CE inhibitor 2-chloro-3,4-dimethoxybenzil blocked hCE-2-catalyzed trans-permethrin hydrolysis 36 times more potently than hCE-1. Thus, this inhibitor will be useful in future studies that examine CE-mediated metabolism of pyrethroids. While there are likely other esterases in human liver that hydrolyze pyrethroids, the results of this study clearly demonstrate that hCE-1 and hCE-2 are human pyrethroid-hydrolyzing CEs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carboxylic Ester Hydrolases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Carboxylic Ester Hydrolases / metabolism*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Humans
  • Hydrolysis
  • Male
  • Microsomes, Liver / enzymology
  • Microsomes, Liver / metabolism
  • Pyrethrins / metabolism*
  • Rabbits
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism


  • Pyrethrins
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Carboxylic Ester Hydrolases