Dimethocaine, a synthetic cocaine derivative: studies on its in vitro metabolism catalyzed by P450s and NAT2

Toxicol Lett. 2014 Feb 10;225(1):139-46. doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2013.11.033. Epub 2013 Dec 3.


Dimethocaine (DMC), a synthetic derivative of cocaine, is distributed and consumed as "new psychoactive substance" (NPS) without any safety testing at the forefront. It is mainly metabolized by N-acetylation, N-deethylation or hydroxylation. Therefore, the aim of the presented study was to determine the human NAT and P450 isozymes involved in this major metabolic steps, to measure the kinetics of the reactions, and to estimate the contribution on in vivo hepatic clearance. For these studies, cDNA-expressed NATs and P450s were used and formation of metabolites after incubation was measured using LC-MS or LC-MS(n). For N-acetylation, NAT2 could be shown to be the only isoform catalyzing the reaction in vitro hence assuming to be the only relevant enzyme for in vivo acetylation. Kinetic profiles of all P450 catalyzed metabolite formations followed classic Michaelis-Menten behavior with enzyme affinities (Km values) between 3.6 and 220 μM. Using the relative activity factor approach, the net clearances for deethylation of DMC were calculated to be 3% for P450 1A2, 1% for 2C19, <1% for 2D6, and 96% for 3A4. The net clearances for hydroxylation of DMC were calculated to be 32% for P450 1A2, 5% for 2C19, 51% for 2D6, and 12% for 3A4. Furthermore, these data were confirmed by chemical inhibition tests in human liver microsomes. As DMC is metabolized via two main steps and different P450 isoforms were involved in the hepatic clearance of DMC, a clinically relevant interaction with single P450 inhibitors should not be expected. However, a slow acetylation phenotype or inhibition of NAT2 could lead to decreased N-acetylation and hence leading to an increased risk of side effects caused by this arylamine.

Keywords: Cocaine; DMC; Designer drug; Metabolism; NAT; P450.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Aminobenzoates / chemical synthesis
  • Aminobenzoates / metabolism*
  • Aminobenzoates / toxicity
  • Arylamine N-Acetyltransferase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Arylamine N-Acetyltransferase / metabolism*
  • Biotransformation
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism*
  • Dealkylation
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Hydroxylation
  • Isoenzymes
  • Kinetics
  • Microsomes
  • Models, Biological
  • Propanolamines / chemical synthesis
  • Propanolamines / metabolism*
  • Propanolamines / toxicity
  • Psychotropic Drugs / chemical synthesis
  • Psychotropic Drugs / metabolism*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / toxicity
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization
  • Substrate Specificity


  • Aminobenzoates
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Isoenzymes
  • Propanolamines
  • Psychotropic Drugs
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • Arylamine N-Acetyltransferase
  • NAT2 protein, human
  • dimethocaine