Aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) is a potent hepatocarcinogen in experimental animals and a hazard to human health in several parts of the world. Implementation of rational intervention plans requires understanding of aspects of the roles of individual chemical steps involved in its disposition. AFB1 is activated to AFB1 exo-8,9-epoxide primarily by cytochrome P450 (P450) enzymes, particularly P450 3A4. However, P450 3A4 and other P450s also oxidize AFB1 to less dangerous products. The exo-epoxide is unstable in H2O (t1/2 1 s at 25 degreesC, k=0.6 s-1) and the diol product undergoes base-catalyzed rearrangement to a dialdehyde that reacts with protein lysine residues. AFB1 exo-8, 9-epoxide reacts with DNA to give adducts in high yield (>98%). This interaction is characterized by a Kd of approximately 1.4 mM, intercalation between base pairs, and rapid reaction with the guanyl N7 atom (k approximately 40 s-1). A proton field on the periphery of DNA is postulated to catalyze hydrolysis and also conjugation. Rat and especially human epoxide hydrolase show very little rate acceleration of hydrolysis of AFB1 exo- or endo-8,9-epoxide. However, glutathione transferases (GSTs) can catalyze AFB1 exo-8,9-epoxide conjugation. Kinetic analysis indicates a range of ratios of kcat/Kd varying from 10 to 1700 s-1 M-1, with the polymorphic GST M1-1 having the highest activity of the human GSTs. Studies with human hepatocytes indicate a major role for GST M1-1 in AFB1 conjugation and that the model chemoprotective agent oltipraz can act by both inducing GSTs and inhibiting P450s.
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