Tetrahydropalmatine (THP), with one chiral center, is an alkaloid that possesses analgesic and many other pharmacological actives. The aim of the present study is to investigate stereoselective metabolism of THP enantiomers in human liver microsomes (HLM) and elucidate which cytochrome P450 (CYP) isoforms contribute to the stereoselective metabolism in HLM. Additionally, the inhibitions of THP enantiomers on activity of CYP enzymes are also investigated. The results demonstrated that (+)-THP was preferentially metabolized by HLM. Ketoconazole (inhibitor of CYP3A4/5) inhibited metabolism of (-)-THP or (+)-THP at same degree, whereas the inhibition of fluvoxamine (inhibitor of CYP1A2) on metabolism of (+)-THP was greater than that of (-)-THP; moreover, the metabolic rate of (+)-THP was 5.3-fold of (-)-THP in recombinant human CYP1A2. Meanwhile, THP enantiomers did not show obvious inhibitory effect on the activity of various CYP isoforms (CYP1A2, 2A6, 2C8, 2C9, 2C19, 2E1, and 3A4/5), whereas (-)-THP, but not (+)-THP, significantly inhibited the activity of CYP2D6 with the Ki value of 6.42 ± 0.38 μM. The results suggested that THP enantiomers were predominantly metabolized by CYP3A4/5 and CYP1A2 in HLM, and (+)-THP was preferentially metabolized by CYP1A2, whereas CYP3A4/5 contributed equally to metabolism of (-)-THP or (+)-THP. Besides, the inhibition of CYP2D6 by (-)-THP may cause drug-drug interaction, which should be considered.
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