Metabolism of digoxin, digoxigenin digitoxosides and digoxigenin in human hepatocytes and liver microsomes

Fundam Clin Pharmacol. 1991;5(7):567-82. doi: 10.1111/j.1472-8206.1991.tb00746.x.


In vitro metabolism of digoxin and its cleavage-related compounds was investigated using hepatocytes in primary culture and microsomal fractions both isolated from human livers. On these models, digoxin (DG3) and digoxigenin bisdigitoxoside (DG2) were not shown to be significantly metabolized in vitro in man. Therefore, it appeared that the stepwise cleavage of DG3 and DG2 sugars was not cytochrome P450 dependent. This enzymatic system probably plays a minor role in humans for this particular reaction. However, digoxigenin monodigitoxoside (DG1) and digoxigenin (DG0) which are known to be formed after intra-gastric hydrolysis of DG3, were extensively converted to polar compounds (mainly glucuronides). In addition, using human liver microsomes, a wide variability in UDP-glucuronyl transferase (UDPGT) activities responsible for DG1 glucuronidation was demonstrated. These results suggest that two main factors may contribute to the overall interindividual variability of digoxin biotransformation: 1), the individual intra-gastric pH which influences the sugar cleavage leading to DG1 and DG0; ii), a variability in the level of the hepatic UDPGT specific for digitalis compounds conjugation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biotransformation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Digitoxigenin / analogs & derivatives
  • Digitoxigenin / metabolism
  • Digitoxigenin / pharmacokinetics
  • Digoxigenin / metabolism*
  • Digoxigenin / pharmacokinetics
  • Digoxin / metabolism*
  • Digoxin / pharmacokinetics
  • Glucuronosyltransferase / metabolism
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Liver / cytology
  • Liver / enzymology
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Microsomes, Liver / enzymology
  • Microsomes, Liver / metabolism*


  • Digitoxigenin
  • digitoxigenin-bis(digitoxoside)
  • digitoxigenin monodigitoxoside
  • Digoxin
  • Glucuronosyltransferase
  • Digoxigenin