Inhibition of NADPH cytochrome P450 reductase by the model sulfur mustard vesicant 2-chloroethyl ethyl sulfide is associated with increased production of reactive oxygen species

Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2010 Sep 1;247(2):76-82. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2010.05.015. Epub 2010 Jun 2.


Inhalation of vesicants including sulfur mustard can cause significant damage to the upper airways. This is the result of vesicant-induced modifications of proteins important in maintaining the integrity of the lung. Cytochrome P450s are the major enzymes in the lung mediating detoxification of sulfur mustard and its metabolites. NADPH cytochrome P450 reductase is a flavin-containing electron donor for cytochrome P450. The present studies demonstrate that the sulfur mustard analog, 2-chloroethyl ethyl sulfide (CEES), is a potent inhibitor of human recombinant cytochrome P450 reductase, as well as native cytochrome P450 reductase from liver microsomes of saline and beta-naphthoflavone-treated rats, and cytochrome P450 reductase from type II lung epithelial cells. Using rat liver microsomes from beta-naphthoflavone-treated rats, CEES was found to inhibit CYP 1A1 activity. This inhibition was overcome by microsomal cytochrome P450 reductase from saline-treated rats, which lack CYP 1A1 activity, demonstrating that the CEES inhibitory activity was selective for cytochrome P450 reductase. Cytochrome P450 reductase also generates reactive oxygen species (ROS) via oxidation of NADPH. In contrast to its inhibitory effects on the reduction of cytochrome c and CYP1A1 activity, CEES was found to stimulate ROS formation. Taken together, these data demonstrate that sulfur mustard vesicants target cytochrome P450 reductase and that this effect may be an important mechanism mediating oxidative stress and lung injury.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP1A1 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP1A1 / metabolism
  • Irritants / toxicity*
  • Mustard Gas / analogs & derivatives*
  • Mustard Gas / toxicity
  • NADPH-Ferrihemoprotein Reductase / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • NADPH-Ferrihemoprotein Reductase / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*


  • Irritants
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • 2-chloroethyl ethyl sulfide
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP1A1
  • NADPH-Ferrihemoprotein Reductase
  • Mustard Gas