Activation of anti-Trypanosoma cruzi drugs to genotoxic metabolites promoted by mammalian microsomal enzymes

Mutat Res. 1988 Apr;204(4):577-83. doi: 10.1016/0165-1218(88)90060-2.


Salmonella typhimurium TA100 and its nitroreductase-deficient derivative, TA100 NR, were used to reevaluate the mutagenic activities of benznidazole and nifurtimox. Mutagenicity and toxicity of nifurtimox were abolished in the TA100 NR tester strain under aerobic or anaerobic conditions and addition of rat liver extracts did not alter the results. However, benznidazole showed a significant mutagenicity and toxicity to the nitroreductase-deficient strain TA100 NR under hypoxic conditions. Addition of rat liver extracts enhanced the observed mutagenicity and toxicity of benznidazole even more. In the presence of O2 the genotoxic activities of benznidazole to the TA100 NR tester strain were eliminated. These results lead us to conclude that bacterial enzymes were responsible for the previously observed genotoxic effects of nifurtimox and benznidazole on S. typhimurium TA100. Moreover, under anaerobic conditions, only benznidazole could be metabolized by mammalian nitroreductases into a mutagenic derivative.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biotransformation
  • Microsomes, Liver / metabolism
  • Mutagenicity Tests
  • Mutagens*
  • Nifurtimox / metabolism
  • Nifurtimox / toxicity*
  • Nitrofurans / toxicity*
  • Nitroimidazoles / metabolism
  • Nitroimidazoles / toxicity*
  • Nitroreductases / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Salmonella typhimurium / drug effects
  • Trypanosoma cruzi / drug effects*


  • Mutagens
  • Nitrofurans
  • Nitroimidazoles
  • Nitroreductases
  • Nifurtimox
  • benzonidazole