Significance of the minor cytochrome P450 3A isoforms

Clin Pharmacokinet. 2006;45(1):13-31. doi: 10.2165/00003088-200645010-00002.


Cytochrome P450 (CYP) 3A4 is responsible for most CYP3A-mediated drug metabolism but the minor isoforms CYP3A5, CYP3A7 and CYP3A43 also contribute. CYP3A5 is the best studied of the minor CYP3A isoforms. It is well established that only approximately 20% of livers express CYP3A5. The most common reason for the absence of expression is a splice site mutation. The frequency of variant alleles shows interethnic differences, with the wild-type CYP3A5*1 allele more common in Africans than Caucasians and Asians. In individuals who express CYP3A5, the percentage contributed to total hepatic CYP3A by this isoform is still unclear, with estimates ranging from 17% to 50%. CYP3A5 is also expressed in a range of extrahepatic tissues. Only limited information is available on the regulation of CYP3A5 expression but it appears to be inducible via the glucocorticoid receptor, pregnane X receptor and constitutive androstane receptor-beta, as for CYP3A4. Although information on the substrate specificity of CYP3A5 is limited compared with CYP3A4, there have been a number of recent pharmacokinetic studies on a small range of substrates in individuals of known genotype to investigate the contribution of CYP3A5. In the case of midazolam, ciclosporin, nifedipine and docetaxel, clearance by individuals with a CYP3A5-expressing genotype did not differ from that for nonexpressors, but in the case of tacrolimus, eight independent studies have demonstrated faster clearance by those carrying one or two CYP3A5*1 alleles. This may reflect faster turnover of tacrolimus by CYP3A5 than the other substrates. CYP3A5 genotype may affect cancer susceptibility. Certain combined CYP3A4/CYP3A5 haplotypes show differential susceptibility to prostate cancer and there is a nonsignificant increase in the risk of small-cell lung cancer for a CYP3A5*1/*1 genotype. Females positive for CYP3A5*1 appear to reach puberty earlier, which may affect breast cancer risk. CYP3A5*1 homozygotes may have higher systolic blood pressure.CYP3A7 is predominantly expressed in fetal liver but is also found in some adult livers and extrahepatically. The molecular basis for expression in adult liver relates to upstream polymorphisms, which appear to increase homology to CYP3A4 and make regulation of expression more similar. CYP3A7 has a specific role in hydroxylation of retinoic acid and 16alpha-hydroxylation of steroids, and is therefore of relevance both to normal development and carcinogenesis.CYP3A43 is the most recently discovered CYP3A isoform. In addition to a low level of expression in liver, it is expressed in prostate and testis. Its substrate specificity is currently unclear. Polymorphisms predicting absence of active enzyme have been identified.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP3A
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System* / biosynthesis
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System* / genetics
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System* / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes
  • Liver / enzymology
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Metabolic Clearance Rate
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism*
  • Xenobiotics / pharmacokinetics*


  • Isoenzymes
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Xenobiotics
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • CYP3A protein, human
  • CYP3A5 protein, human
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP3A
  • CYP3A4 protein, human