The aminopyrine breath test has been used in adults as a measure of hepatic N-demethylase activity. In order to study maturational changes in enzyme function, 13C aminopyrine (2 mg/kg) was administered orally to infants (n = 16) between the ages of 1 and 38 wk. Breath samples were collected for 6 h after administration of the labeled aminopyrine for the measurement of 13CO2 enrichment. Using a number of different scoring methods to quantitate 13CO2 elimination of breath, demethylation of aminopyrine was found to be positively correlated to age. By 20 wk of age, some infants had rates of elimination similar to those measured in adults. Absorption was excluded as a limiting variable, because no improvement in oxidation rates was found when the aminopyrine was readministered as an intravenous bolus. Changes in nutritional status and route of feeding (enteral versus parenteral) did not prevent the effect of maturation on aminopyrine elimination.
Conclusions: 1) maturational differences are seen in the metabolism of aminopyrine; 2) these differences may reflect immaturity of N-demethylase activity or diversion of the liberated formaldehyde into biosynthetic rather than oxidative pathways.