Benzylic oxidation of gemfibrozil-1-O-beta-glucuronide by P450 2C8 leads to heme alkylation and irreversible inhibition

Chem Res Toxicol. 2009 Jul;22(7):1298-309. doi: 10.1021/tx900105n.


Gemfibrozil-1-O-beta-glucuronide (GEM-1-O-gluc), a major metabolite of the antihyperlipidemic drug gemfibrozil, is a mechanism-based inhibitor of P450 2C8 in vitro, and this irreversible inactivation may lead to clinical drug-drug interactions between gemfibrozil and other P450 2C8 substrates. In light of this in vitro finding and the observation that the glucuronide conjugate does not contain any obvious structural alerts, the current study was conducted to determine the potential site of GEM-1-O-gluc bioactivation and the subsequent mechanism of P450 2C8 inhibition (i.e., modification of apoprotein or heme). LC/MS analysis of a reaction mixture containing recombinant P450 2C8 and GEM-1-O-gluc revealed that the substrate was covalently linked to the heme prosthetic heme group during catalysis. A combination of mass spectrometry and deuterium isotope effects revealed that a benzylic carbon on the 2',5'-dimethylphenoxy group of GEM-1-O-gluc was covalently bound to the heme of P450 2C8. The regiospecificity of substrate addition to the heme group was not confirmed experimentally, but computational modeling experiments indicated that the gamma-meso position was the most likely site of modification. The metabolite profile, which consisted of two benzyl alcohol metabolites and a 4'-hydroxy-GEM-1-O-gluc metabolite, indicated that oxidation of GEM-1-O-gluc was limited to the 2',5'-dimethylphenoxy group. These results are consistent with an inactivation mechanism wherein GEM-1-O-gluc is oxidized to a benzyl radical intermediate, which evades oxygen rebound, and adds to the gamma-meso position of heme. Mechanism-based inhibition of P450 2C8 can be rationalized by the formation of the GEM-1-O-gluc-heme adduct and the consequential restriction of additional substrate access to the catalytic iron center.

MeSH terms

  • Alkylation
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Hydroxylases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Hydroxylases / metabolism*
  • Catalytic Domain
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Computer Simulation
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2C8
  • Gemfibrozil / analogs & derivatives*
  • Gemfibrozil / chemistry
  • Gemfibrozil / metabolism
  • Gemfibrozil / pharmacology
  • Gemfibrozil / toxicity
  • Glucuronates / chemistry*
  • Glucuronates / pharmacology
  • Glucuronates / toxicity
  • Heme / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Hypolipidemic Agents / metabolism
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Recombinant Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism


  • Glucuronates
  • Hypolipidemic Agents
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Heme
  • gemfibrozil 1-O-acylglucuronide
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Hydroxylases
  • CYP2C8 protein, human
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2C8
  • Gemfibrozil