Species differences in methanol and formic acid pharmacokinetics in mice, rabbits and primates

Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2010 Aug 15;247(1):28-35. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2010.05.009. Epub 2010 May 25.


Methanol (MeOH) is metabolized primarily by alcohol dehydrogenase in humans, but by catalase in rodents, with species variations in the pharmacokinetics of its formic acid (FA) metabolite. The teratogenic potential of MeOH in humans is unknown, and its teratogenicity in rodents may not accurately reflect human developmental risk due to differential species metabolism, as for some other teratogens. To determine if human MeOH metabolism might be better reflected in rabbits than rodents, the plasma pharmacokinetics of MeOH and FA were compared in male CD-1 mice, New Zealand white rabbits and cynomolgus monkeys over time (24, 48 and 6h, respectively) following a single intraperitoneal injection of 0.5 or 2g/kg MeOH or its saline vehicle. Following the high dose, MeOH exhibited saturated elimination kinetics in all 3 species, with similar peak concentrations and a 2.5-fold higher clearance in mice than rabbits. FA accumulation within 6h in primates was 5-fold and 43-fold higher than in rabbits and mice respectively, with accumulation being 10-fold higher in rabbits than mice. Over 48 h, FA accumulation was nearly 5-fold higher in rabbits than mice. Low-dose MeOH in mice and rabbits resulted in similarly saturated MeOH elimination in both species, but with approximately 2-fold higher clearance rates in mice. FA accumulation was 3.8-fold higher in rabbits than mice. Rabbits more closely than mice reflected primates for in vivo MeOH metabolism, and particularly FA accumulation, suggesting that developmental studies in rabbits may be useful for assessing potential human teratological risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Formates / blood
  • Formates / pharmacokinetics*
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Male
  • Methanol / blood
  • Methanol / pharmacokinetics*
  • Mice
  • Rabbits
  • Species Specificity
  • Time


  • Formates
  • formic acid
  • Methanol