Variations in catechol O-methyltransferase activity in rodent tissues: possible role in estrogen carcinogenicity

Carcinogenesis. 1989 Jan;10(1):63-7. doi: 10.1093/carcin/10.1.63.


Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) [EC] is a ubiquitous cytosolic enzyme which has a pertinent role in the inactivation of both natural and synthetic catechol estrogens in mammalian tissues. We have compared the COMT activity in mouse, hamster and rat kidney, liver and red blood cells and examined the kinetic characteristics of this enzyme in the latter two species using various catechol estrogens as substrates. Results presented here indicate that the ratios of COMT activity in the kidney versus the liver of the rat and mouse are nearly identical, 0.48-0.52, whereas there is a 29-fold ratio between the level of COMT activity in these two tissues in the hamster. In red blood cells, the level of COMT activity is 4- and 12-fold lower in the hamster compared to mouse and rat, respectively. When the kinetic characteristics of this enzyme were assessed in the hamster and rat kidney and liver, except for 2-hydroxymoxestrol which had an apparent Km value of 15-48 microM, the other catechol estrogen substrates exhibited Km values ranging from 1-10 microM. Generally, the Vmax values were markedly higher in the rat kidney and liver than those observed in corresponding hamster tissues. The significantly lower COMT activity in the hamster liver and red blood cells suggests that under chronic estrogen treatment at high doses, the concentration of catechol estrogens in these tissues may exceed the capacity of COMT to effectively catalyse their O-methylation into inactive metabolites. The resulting accumulation of catechol estrogens may contribute to the estrogen carcinogenicity observed in the hamster liver and kidney. Additionally, when 2-hydroxyestrone was used as a substrate, the estrogen-induced renal carcinoma exhibited only 8.6% of the COMT activity found in the normal kidney.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase / metabolism*
  • Cricetinae
  • Erythrocytes / enzymology*
  • Estrogens / toxicity*
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Kidney / enzymology*
  • Kidney Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Kidney Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Kinetics
  • Liver / enzymology*
  • Rats
  • Substrate Specificity


  • Estrogens
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase