High CYP2A6 enzyme activity as measured by a caffeine test and unique distribution of CYP2A6 variant alleles in Ethiopian population

OMICS. 2014 Jul;18(7):446-53. doi: 10.1089/omi.2013.0140. Epub 2013 Dec 31.


CYP2A6 metabolizes clinically relevant drugs, including antiretroviral and antimalarial drugs of major public health importance for the African populations. CYP2A6 genotype-phenotype relationship in African populations, and implications of geographic differences on enzyme activity, remain to be investigated. We evaluated the influence of CYP2A6 genotype, geographical differences, gender, and cigarette smoking on enzyme activity, using caffeine as a probe in 100 healthy unrelated Ethiopians living in Ethiopia, and 72 living in Sweden. CYP2A6 phenotype was estimated by urinary 1,7-dimethyluric acid (17U)/1,7-dimethylxanthine or paraxanthine (17X) ratio. The frequencies of CYP2A6*1B, *1D, *2, *4, *9, and *1x2 in Ethiopians were 31.3, 29.4, 0.6, 0.6, 2.8, and 0.3%, respectively. The overall mean±SD for log 17U/17X was 0.12±0.24 and coefficient of variation 199%. No significant difference in the mean log 17U/17X ratio between Ethiopians living in Sweden versus Ethiopia was observed. Analysis of variance revealed CYP2A6 genotype (p=0.04, F=2.01) but not geographical differences, sex, or cigarette smoking as predictors of CYP2A6 activity. Importantly, the median (interquartile range) of 17U/17X ratio in Ethiopians 1.35 (0.99 to 1.84) was 3- and 11-fold higher than the previously reported value in Swedes 0.52 (0.27 to 1.00) and Koreans 0.13 (0.0 to 0.35), respectively (Djordjevic et al., 2013). Taken together, we report here the relevance of CYP2A6 genotype for enzyme activity in this Ethiopian sample, as well as high CYP2A6 activity and unique distribution of the CYP2A6 variant alleles in Ethiopians as compared other populations described hitherto. Because Omics biomarker research is rapidly accelerating in Africa, CYP2A6 pharmacogenetics and clinical pharmacology observations reported herein for the Ethiopian populations have clinical and biological importance to plan for future rational therapeutics efforts in the African continent as well as therapeutics as a global science.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Continental Ancestry Group
  • Alleles*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2A6 / genetics*
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2A6 / metabolism*
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Ethiopia
  • Female
  • Genetic Association Studies*
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Phenotype
  • Population Surveillance
  • Risk Factors
  • Sweden
  • Young Adult


  • CYP2A6 protein, human
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2A6