The CYP2W1 enzyme: regulation, properties and activation of prodrugs

Drug Metab Rev. 2016 Aug;48(3):369-78. doi: 10.1080/03602532.2016.1188939. Epub 2016 Jun 3.


CYP2W1 is expressed in the course of development of the gastrointestinal tract, silenced after birth in intestine and colon by epigenetic modifications, but activated following demethylation in colorectal cancer (CRC). The expression levels in CRC positively correlate with the degree of malignancy, are higher in metastases and are predictive of colon cancer survival. The CYP2W1 transcripts have been detected also in hepatocellular carcinoma, adrenocortical carcinoma, childhood rhabdomyosarcoma and breast cancer; however, here the protein expression remains to be confirmed. The CYP2W1 enzyme has an inverted orientation in the endoplasmic reticulum membrane, as compared to other cytochrome P450s and its immediate electron donor is unknown. Several lipid ligands have been proposed as endogenous substrates, among which retinol derivatives appear to have the highest affinities. However, the role of CYP2W1 in the endogenous and tumor localized metabolism of retinol derivatives has yet to be clarified. Indolines constitute high affinity exogenous compounds and specific chloromethylindolines have been shown to be activated by CYP2W1 into cytotoxic products in vitro and also in vivo, inhibiting the growth of human colon tumors in a mouse xenograft model. The CRC specific localization of CYP2W1 and its effective prodrug activation makes it a very promising target for future development of cancer therapeutics.

Keywords: Indolines; colon cancer; duocarmycins; fetal colon; prodrugs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biotransformation
  • Cytochrome P450 Family 2 / genetics
  • Cytochrome P450 Family 2 / metabolism*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic*
  • Humans
  • Indoles / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Prodrugs / metabolism*
  • Vitamin A / analogs & derivatives
  • Vitamin A / metabolism


  • Indoles
  • Prodrugs
  • Vitamin A
  • CYP2W1 protein, human
  • Cytochrome P450 Family 2