Genetic polymorphisms and benzene metabolism in humans exposed to a wide range of air concentrations

Pharmacogenet Genomics. 2007 Oct;17(10):789-801. doi: 10.1097/FPC.0b013e3280128f77.


Using generalized linear models with natural-spline smoothing functions, we detected effects of specific xenobiotic metabolizing genes and gene-environment interactions on levels of benzene metabolites in 250 benzene-exposed and 136 control workers in Tianjin, China (for all individuals, the median exposure was 0.512 p.p.m. and the 10th and 90th percentiles were 0.002 and 6.40 p.p.m., respectively). We investigated five urinary metabolites (E,E-muconic acid, S-phenylmercapturic acid, phenol, catechol, and hydroquinone) and nine polymorphisms in seven genes coding for key enzymes in benzene metabolism in humans {cytochrome P450 2E1 [CYP2E1, rs2031920], NAD(P)H: quinone oxidoreductase [NQO1, rs1800566 and rs4986998], microsomal epoxide hydrolase [EPHX1, rs1051740 and rs2234922], glutathione-S-transferases [GSTT1, GSTM1 and GSTP1(rs947894)] and myeloperoxidase [MPO, rs2333227]}. After adjusting for covariates, including sex, age, and smoking status, NQO1*2 (rs1800566) affected all five metabolites, CYP2E1 (rs2031920) affected most metabolites but not catechol, EPHX1 (rs1051740 or rs2234922) affected catechol and S-phenylmercapturic acid, and GSTT1 and GSTM1 affected S-phenylmercapturic acid. Significant interactions were also detected between benzene exposure and all four genes and between smoking status and NQO1*2 and EPHX1 (rs1051740). No significant effects were detected for GSTP1 or MPO. Results generally support prior associations between benzene hematotoxicity and specific gene mutations, confirm earlier evidence that GSTT1 affects production of S-phenylmercapturic acid, and provide additional evidence that genetic polymorphisms in NQO1*2, CYP2E1, and EPHX1 (rs1051740 or rs2234922) affect metabolism of benzene in the human liver.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Air*
  • Benzene / administration & dosage*
  • Benzene / chemistry
  • Benzene / metabolism*
  • Benzene Derivatives / urine
  • Demography
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*


  • Benzene Derivatives
  • Benzene