Interspecies differences in the metabolism of methotrexate: An insight into the active site differences between human and rabbit aldehyde oxidase

Biochem Pharmacol. 2015 Aug 1;96(3):288-95. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2015.05.010. Epub 2015 May 29.


Several drug compounds have failed in clinical trials due to extensive biotransformation by aldehyde oxidase (AOX) (EC One of the main reasons is the difficulty in scaling clearance for drugs metabolised by AOX, from preclinical species to human. Using methotrexate as a probe substrate, we evaluated AOX metabolism in liver cytosol from human and commonly used laboratory species namely guinea pig, monkey, rat and rabbit. We found that the metabolism of methotrexate in rabbit liver cytosol was several orders of magnitude higher than any of the other species tested. The results of protein quantitation revealed that the amount of AOX1 in human liver was similar to rabbit liver. To understand if the observed differences in activity were due to structural differences, we modelled rabbit AOX1 using the previously generated human AOX1 homology model. Molecular docking of methotrexate into the active site of the enzyme led to the identification of important residues that could potentially be involved in substrate binding and account for the observed differences. In order to study the impact of these residue changes on enzyme activity, we used site directed mutagenesis to construct mutant AOX1 cDNAs by substituting nucleotides of human AOX1 with relevant ones of rabbit AOX1. AOX1 mutant proteins were expressed in Escherichia coli. Differences in the kinetic properties of these mutants have been presented in this study.

Keywords: 7-Hydoxymethotrexate (PubChem CID: 126941); Aldehyde oxidase; Drug metabolism; Enzyme kinetics; Homology modelling; Methotrexate; Methotrexate (PubChem CID: 5484402); Site directed mutagenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aldehyde Oxidase / chemistry
  • Aldehyde Oxidase / metabolism*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / chemistry
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / metabolism*
  • Catalytic Domain
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Liver / chemistry*
  • Liver / enzymology
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Methotrexate / chemistry
  • Methotrexate / metabolism*
  • Molecular Docking Simulation
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Rabbits
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Species Specificity
  • Structural Homology, Protein
  • Substrate Specificity


  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic
  • AOX1 protein, human
  • Aldehyde Oxidase
  • Methotrexate