CYP450 phenotyping and accurate mass identification of metabolites of the 8-aminoquinoline, anti-malarial drug primaquine

Malar J. 2012 Aug 2;11:259. doi: 10.1186/1475-2875-11-259.


Background: The 8-aminoquinoline (8AQ) drug primaquine (PQ) is currently the only approved drug effective against the persistent liver stage of the hypnozoite forming strains Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium ovale as well as Stage V gametocytes of Plasmodium falciparum. To date, several groups have investigated the toxicity observed in the 8AQ class, however, exact mechanisms and/or metabolic species responsible for PQ's haemotoxic and anti-malarial properties are not fully understood.

Methods: In the present study, the metabolism of PQ was evaluated using in vitro recombinant metabolic enzymes from the cytochrome P450 (CYP) and mono-amine oxidase (MAO) families. Based on this information, metabolite identification experiments were performed using nominal and accurate mass measurements.

Results: Relative activity factor (RAF)-weighted intrinsic clearance values show the relative role of each enzyme to be MAO-A, 2C19, 3A4, and 2D6, with 76.1, 17.0, 5.2, and 1.7% contributions to PQ metabolism, respectively. CYP 2D6 was shown to produce at least six different oxidative metabolites along with demethylations, while MAO-A products derived from the PQ aldehyde, a pre-cursor to carboxy PQ. CYPs 2C19 and 3A4 produced only trace levels of hydroxylated species.

Conclusions: As a result of this work, CYP 2D6 and MAO-A have been implicated as the key enzymes associated with PQ metabolism, and metabolites previously identified as potentially playing a role in efficacy and haemolytic toxicity have been attributed to production via CYP 2D6 mediated pathways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aminoquinolines / metabolism*
  • Antimalarials / metabolism*
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / genetics
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways
  • Primaquine / metabolism*
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism


  • Aminoquinolines
  • Antimalarials
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • Primaquine
  • 8-aminoquinoline