Roles of UDP-glucuronosyltransferases in chemical carcinogenesis

Crit Rev Biochem Mol Biol. 1991;26(2):129-50. doi: 10.3109/10409239109081125.


UDP-glucuronosyltransferases (UGT) play a major role in the elimination of nucleophilic metabolites of carcinogens, such as phenols and quinols of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. In this way they prevent their further oxidation to electrophiles, which may react with DNA, RNA, and protein. They also inactivate carcinogenic, N-oxidized metabolites of aromatic amines. Furthermore, glucuronides may be stable transport forms of proximate carcinogens excreted via the biliary or urinary tract, thereby liberating the ultimate carcinogen at the target of carcinogenicity. Isozymes of the UGT enzyme superfamily that control the glucuronidation of metabolites of aromatic hydrocarbons and of N-oxidized aromatic amines have been identified in rats and humans. Phenol UGT appears to be coinduced with other drug-metabolizing enzymes via the Ah or dioxin receptor. This isozyme probably controls various proximate carcinogens and contributes to the persistently altered enzyme pattern, leading to the "toxin-resistance phenotype" at cancer prestages. Knowledge about UGTs in different species, their regulation, and their tissue distribution will improve the risk assessment of carcinogens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinogens / metabolism
  • Carcinogens / toxicity
  • Glucuronates / metabolism
  • Glucuronosyltransferase / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism


  • Carcinogens
  • Glucuronates
  • Isoenzymes
  • Glucuronosyltransferase