Cytochromes P450 catalyze both steps of the major pathway of clopidogrel bioactivation, whereas paraoxonase catalyzes the formation of a minor thiol metabolite isomer

Chem Res Toxicol. 2012 Feb 20;25(2):348-56. doi: 10.1021/tx2004085. Epub 2011 Dec 1.


The mechanism generally admitted for the bioactivation of the antithrombotic prodrug, clopidogrel, is its two-step enzymatic conversion into a biologically active thiol metabolite. The first step is a classical cytochrome P450 (P450)-dependent monooxygenation of its thiophene ring leading to 2-oxo-clopidogrel, a thiolactone metabolite. The second step was described as a P450-dependent oxidative opening of the thiolactone ring of 2-oxo-clopidogrel, with intermediate formation of a reactive sulfenic acid metabolite that is eventually reduced to the corresponding thiol 4b. A very recent paper published in Nat. Med. (Bouman et al., (2011) 17, 110) reported that the second step of clopidogrel bioactivation was not catalyzed by P450 enzymes but by paraoxonase-1(PON-1) and that PON-1 was a major determinant of clopidogrel efficacy. The results described in the present article show that there are two metabolic pathways for the opening of the thiolactone ring of 2-oxo-clopidogrel. The major one, that was previously described, results from a P450-dependent redox bioactivation of 2-oxo-clopidogrel and leads to 4b cis, two previously reported thiol diastereomers bearing an exocyclic double bond. The second, minor one, results from a hydrolysis of 2-oxo-clopidogrel, which seems to be dependent on PON-1, and leads to an isomer of 4b cis, 4b "endo", in which the double bond has migrated from an exocyclic to an endocyclic position in the piperidine ring. These results were obtained from a detailed study of the metabolism of 2-oxo-clopidogrel by human liver microsomes and human sera and analysis by HPLC-MS under conditions allowing a complete separation of the thiol metabolite isomers, either as such or after derivatization with 3'-methoxy phenacyl bromide or N-ethyl maleimide (NEM). These results also show that the major bioactive thiol isomer found in the plasma of clopidogrel-treated patients derives from 2-oxo-clopidogrel by the P450-dependent pathway. Finally, chemical experiments on 2-oxo-clopidogrel showed that this thiolactone is in equilibrium with its tautomer having a double bond inside the piperidine ring and that nucleophiles such as CH(3)O(-) preferentially react on the thioester function of this tautomer. This allowed us to understand why 4b cis has to be formed via an oxidative opening of 2-oxo-clopidogrel thiolactone, whereas a hydrolytic opening of this thiolactone ring leads to the "endo" thiol isomer 4b "endo".

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aryldialkylphosphatase / metabolism*
  • Biotransformation
  • Catalysis
  • Clopidogrel
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Isomerism
  • Microsomes, Liver / metabolism
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors / metabolism*
  • Serum / metabolism
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds / metabolism*
  • Ticlopidine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Ticlopidine / metabolism


  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • Clopidogrel
  • Aryldialkylphosphatase
  • Ticlopidine