Characterization of dextromethorphan N-demethylation by human liver microsomes. Contribution of the cytochrome P450 3A (CYP3A) subfamily

Biochem Pharmacol. 1994 Jul 5;48(1):173-82. doi: 10.1016/0006-2952(94)90237-2.


In an effort to identify the human cytochromes P450 involved in the N-demethylation of dextromethorphan, the kinetics of 3-methoxymorphinan formation were studied in microsomal enzyme systems. Under initial rate conditions, 3-methoxymorphinan formation demonstrated single enzyme Michaelis-Menten kinetics using microsomes obtained from three human livers (Km: 0.52-0.71 mM; Vmax: 375-812 pmol/mg protein/min). B-lymphoblastoid cells expressing CYP3A4 incubated with 0.4 mM dextromethorphan catalyzed the formation of 3-methoxymorphinan at a rate of 22 pmol product/mg protein/min. Midazolam, a prototypic substrate for CYP3A4 and CYP3A5, competitively inhibited dextromethorphan N-demethylation by two human liver microsomal samples with Ki values of 46 +/- 10 and 63 +/- 8 microM. At a dextromethorphan concentration of 0.4 mM, gestodene (100 microM) inhibited 3-methoxymorphinan formation by approximately 50%. Immunoinhibition of dextromethorphan N-demethylation using rabbit anti-CYP3A4 antibodies resulted in a 60% decrease in 3-methoxymorphinan formation at a dextromethorphan concentration of 0.4 mM. Additional inhibition studies using furafylline, coumarin, sulfaphenazole, mephenytoin, quinidine, and diethyldithiocarbamic acid, which are selective inhibitors of CYP1A2, CYP2A6, CYP2C8/9, CYP2Cmp, CYP2D6, and CYP2E1, respectively, demonstrated no substantial inhibition of dextromethorphan N-demethylation. Correlation analysis was performed using the rate of 3-methoxymorphinan formation at a concentration of 1 mM dextromethorphan and immunoquantified levels of CYP1A2, CYP2A6, CYP2C8, CYP2C9, CYP2C19, CYP2D6, CYP2E1, CYP3A4, and CYP3A5 and their associated characteristic catalytic activities. A significant correlation was observed between dextromethorphan N-demethylase activity and midazolam 1'- and 4-hydroxylase activity (r2 = 0.77 and 0.69 respectively, N = 19, P < 0.01); the exclusion of those samples containing both CYP3A4 and CYP3A5 increased the correlation significantly (r2 = 0.87 and 0.91 respectively, N = 12, P < 0.01). In the absence of CYP3A5, a significant correlation was observed between 3-methoxymorphinan formation and the sample's erythromycin N-demethylase activity (r2 = 0.94, N = 12, P < 0.01), testosterone 6 beta-hydroxylase activity (r2 = 0.96, N = 7, P < 0.01) and relative immunoquantified levels of CYP3A4 (r2 = 0.96, N = 12, P < 0.01). Inclusion of those samples expressing CYP3A5 in addition to CYP3A4 reduced the magnitude of the observed correlation. No significant correlation between 3-methoxymorphinan formation and the sample's relative immunoquantified levels of or form-selective activity associated with CYP1A2, CYP2A6, CYP2C8, CYP2C9, CYP2C19 (or CYP2Cmp), CYP2D6, and CYP2E1 was observed. In conclusion, dextromethorphan N-demethylation appears to be catalyzed primarily by CYP3A4 and to a lesser extent by CYP3A5 in vitro in humans.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2E1
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism*
  • Dextromethorphan / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Kinetics
  • Methylation
  • Microsomes, Liver / metabolism*
  • Mixed Function Oxygenases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Mixed Function Oxygenases / metabolism*
  • Phenotype


  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Dextromethorphan
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • Mixed Function Oxygenases
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2E1