Regulation of cytochromes P450 during inflammation and infection

Drug Metab Rev. 1997 Nov;29(4):1129-88. doi: 10.3109/03602539709002246.


Hepatic P450 activities are profoundly affected by various infectious and inflammatory stimuli, and this has clinical and toxicological consequences. Whereas the expression of most P450s in the liver is suppressed, some are induced. Many of the effects observed in vivo can be mimicked by pro-inflammatory cytokines and IFNs, and P450s are differentially regulated by these agents. Therefore, different cytokine profiles and concentrations in the vicinity of the hepatocyte in different models of inflammation may result in qualitatively and quantitatively different effects on populations of P450s. In addition to cytokines, glucocorticoids may have an important role in P450 regulation in stress conditions, including that caused by inflammatory stimuli. Although in many cases the decreases in activity are due primarily to a down-regulation of P450 gene transcription, it is likely that modulation of RNA and protein turnover, as well as enzyme inhibition, contributes to some of the observed effects. The mechanisms whereby these effects are produced may also vary with both the P450 under study and the time course of the effect. The complexity of the P450 response to inflammation and infection means that all of the above factors must be considered when trying to predict the effect of a given infectious or inflammatory condition on the clinical or toxic response of humans or animals to an administered drug or toxin. The question of whether the down-regulation of the hepatic P450 system to inflammation or infection is a homeostatic or pathological response cannot be answered at present. It is difficult to discern the physiological benefit of reducing hepatic P450 activities, unless it is to prevent the generation of reactive oxygen species generated by uncoupled catalytic turnover of the enzymes. On the other hand, as we proposed some years ago [64], the suppression of P450 may be due to the liver's need to utilize its transcriptional machinery and energy for the synthesis of APPs involved in the inflammatory response. In that case, one could ask why the organism has gone to the trouble of employing differential mechanisms for suppression of P450. One answer could be that the response evolved after the divergence of many of the P450 genes, necessitating the evolution of multiple redundant mechanisms for P450 suppression. In contrast to the down-regulation of P450s in the liver, the induction of several forms in this and other tissues suggests a more specific homeostatic role of these effects, e.g., in generation or catabolism of bioactive metabolites.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / genetics*
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Eicosanoids / metabolism
  • Enzyme Induction
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Heme Oxygenase (Decyclizing) / physiology
  • Hormones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Infections / enzymology*
  • Inflammation / enzymology*
  • Interferons / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide / physiology
  • Oxidants / physiology
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / physiology
  • Second Messenger Systems
  • Signal Transduction
  • Sphingolipids / physiology
  • Transcription Factors / physiology


  • Cytokines
  • Eicosanoids
  • Hormones
  • Oxidants
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • Sphingolipids
  • Transcription Factors
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Interferons
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • Heme Oxygenase (Decyclizing)