Carbonyl reduction of bupropion in human liver

Xenobiotica. 2012 Jun;42(6):550-61. doi: 10.3109/00498254.2011.643416. Epub 2012 Feb 20.


Bupropion is metabolized extensively in humans by oxidative and reductive processes. CYP2B6 mediates oxidation of bupropion to hydroxybupropion, but the enzyme(s) catalyzing carbonyl reduction of bupropion to erythro- and threohydrobupropion in human liver is unknown. The objective of this study was to examine the enzyme kinetics of bupropion reduction in human liver. In human liver cytosol, the reduction of bupropion to erythro-and threohydrobupropion was NADPH dependent with Cl(int) values of 0.08 and 0.60 µL·min(-1)mg(-1) protein, respectively. Bupropion reduction in liver microsomes was also NADPH dependent with Cl(int) values of 10.4 and 280 µL·min(-1)mg(-1) protein, respectively. Formation of erythro-and threohydrobupropion in microsomes exceeded that in cytosol by 70 and 170 fold, respectively. Menadione, an inhibitor of cytosolic carbonyl reducing enzymes (e.g. CBRs), inhibited erythro-and threohydrobupropion formation in cytosol with IC(50) of 30 and 54 µM, respectively. In microsomes 18β-glycyrrhetinic acid, an inhibitor of microsomal carbonyl reductases (e.g. 11β-HSDs), inhibited their formation with IC(50) of 25 and 26 nM, respectively. Our findings, in agreement with recent human placental studies, show that carbonyl reducing enzymes in hepatic microsomes are significant players in bupropion reduction. Contrary to past studies, we found that threohydrobupropion (not hydroxybupropion) is the major microsomal generated hepatic metabolite of bupropion.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • 11-beta-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases / metabolism
  • Alcohol Oxidoreductases / metabolism*
  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation / metabolism*
  • Bupropion / metabolism*
  • Cytosol / enzymology
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Liver / enzymology*
  • Liver / ultrastructure
  • Microsomes, Liver / enzymology
  • NADP / pharmacology
  • Vitamin K 3 / pharmacology*


  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Bupropion
  • NADP
  • Vitamin K 3
  • Alcohol Oxidoreductases
  • 11-beta-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases