On the mechanisms of induction of cancer-protective enzymes: a unifying proposal

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1985 Dec;82(23):8232-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.82.23.8232.


Induction of detoxification enzymes is a major mechanism whereby a wide variety of chemical agents protect rodents against neoplastic, mutagenic, and other toxicities of carcinogens. The enzyme NAD(P)H:(quinone acceptor) oxidoreductase (EC can protect against the toxicities of quinones and is a useful marker for protective enzyme induction. Quinone reductase can be induced in murine Hepa 1c1c7 hepatoma cells and 3T3 embryo fibroblasts by compounds that are chemoprotectors in vivo, including some phenolic antioxidants, azo dyes, aromatic diamines, and aminophenols. Structurally dissimilar catechols (1,2-diphenols) and hydroquinones (1,4-diphenols) induce quinone reductase in these systems, but resorcinol (1,3-diphenol) and its substituted analogues are inactive. Furthermore, only aromatic 1,2- and 1,4-diamines and aminophenols are inducers, whereas the 1,3-diamines are completely inactive. These findings suggest that the functional capacity to form quinones or quinone-diimines, rather than the precise structure, is essential for inductive activity and that the generation of the signal for enzyme induction depends upon oxidation-reduction lability. The observations that some chemoprotective compounds (e.g., azo dyes, beta-naphthoflavone) induce both cytochromes P-450 and quinone reductase, whereas others (e.g., tert-butylhydroquinone) induce only quinone reductase, can be reconciled by the fact that inducers of the first type are metabolized by P-450 enzymes to form products that are functionally similar to compounds of the second type.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Azo Compounds / pharmacology
  • Cell Line
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism
  • Diamines / pharmacology
  • Enzyme Induction / drug effects
  • Mice
  • NAD(P)H Dehydrogenase (Quinone)
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Phenols / pharmacology
  • Quinone Reductases / biosynthesis*
  • Stomach Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Azo Compounds
  • Diamines
  • Phenols
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • NAD(P)H Dehydrogenase (Quinone)
  • Quinone Reductases