The ontogeny of drug metabolism enzymes and implications for adverse drug events

Pharmacol Ther. 2008 May;118(2):250-67. doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2008.02.005. Epub 2008 Mar 5.


Profound changes in drug metabolizing enzyme (DME) expression occurs during development that impacts the risk of adverse drug events in the fetus and child. A review of our current knowledge suggests individual hepatic DME ontogeny can be categorized into one of three groups. Some enzymes, e.g., CYP3A7, are expressed at their highest level during the first trimester and either remain at high concentrations or decrease during gestation, but are silenced or expressed at low levels within one to two years after birth. SULT1A1 is an example of the second group of DME. These enzymes are expressed at relatively constant levels throughout gestation and minimal changes are observed postnatally. ADH1C is typical of the third DME group that are not expressed or are expressed at low levels in the fetus, usually during the second or third trimester. Substantial increases in enzyme levels are observed within the first one to two years after birth. Combined with our knowledge of other physiological factors during early life stages, knowledge regarding DME ontogeny has permitted the development of robust physiological based pharmacokinetic models and an improved capability to predict drug disposition in pediatric patients. This review will provide an overview of DME developmental expression patterns and discuss some implications of the data with regards to drug therapy. Common themes emerging from our current knowledge also will be discussed. Finally, the review will highlight gaps in knowledge that will be important to advance this field.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions*
  • Enzymes / genetics
  • Enzymes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Oxidoreductases / metabolism
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism*
  • Tissue Distribution / genetics
  • Tissue Distribution / physiology


  • Enzymes
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Oxidoreductases