Species differences in the toxicity and cytochrome P450 IIIA-dependent metabolism of digitoxin

Eberhart, D.C.; Gemzik, B.; Halvorson, M.R.; Parkinson, A.

Molecular Pharmacology 40(5): 859-867


ISSN/ISBN: 0026-895X
PMID: 1944247
Document Number: 372665
In rats, cytochrome P450 (P450) IIIA enzymes are an important determinant of digitoxin toxicity. Induction of these liver microsomal enzymes decreases the toxicity of digitoxin by increasing its oxidative cleavage to digitoxigenin bis- and monodigitoxoside (dt2 and dt1). The present study shows that the susceptibility of different mammalian species to digitoxin toxicity is inversely related to liver microsomal P450 IIIA activity (measured as testosterone 6 beta-hydroxylase activity). Based on this correlation, we correctly predicted that hamsters, which have the highest P450 IIIA activity, are extremely resistant to digitoxin toxicity. To further examine the relationship between digitoxin toxicity and P450 IIIA activity, the pathways of digitoxin metabolism catalyzed by liver microsomes from nine mammalian species were examined by high performance liquid chromatography. The overall rate of digitoxin metabolism varied approximately 90-fold and followed the rank order: hamster greater than rat greater than guinea pig greater than dog greater than mouse approximately monkey greater than rabbit approximately cat greater than human. The qualitative differences in digitoxin metabolism were as striking as the quantitative differences. Formation of 16- and/or 17-hydroxydigitoxin was the major pathway of digitoxin oxidation catalyzed by liver microsomes from hamster, guinea pig, rabbit, cat, dog, and cynomolgus monkey. Guinea pig and, to a lesser extent, hamster liver microsomes also converted digitoxin to an unknown metabolite, the formation of which was catalyzed by P450. None of the species examined catalyzed the 12-hydroxylation of digitoxin to digoxin at a high rate. Similarly, none of the species examined catalyzed a high rate of conversion of digitoxin to dt2, with the notable exception of the rat. However, dt2 formation was the major pathway of digitoxin metabolism catalyzed by human liver microsomes, although humans were much less active (approximately 2%) than rats in this regard. The rate of dt2 formation varied approximately 41-fold among 22 samples of human liver microsomes, which was highly correlated (r = 0.841) with the rate of testosterone 6 beta-hydroxylation. Antibody against rat P450 IIIA1 inhibited the high rate of dt2 formation by rat liver microsomes and the low rate catalyzed by mouse, guinea pig, dog, monkey, and human liver microsomes. In contrast, anti-P450 IIIA1 did not inhibit the 12-, 16-, or 17-hydroxylation of digitoxin (or the formation of the unknown metabolite), despite the fact that anti-P450 IIIA1 strongly inhibited (greater than 70%) the 6 beta-hydroxylation of testosterone by liver microsomes from each of the species examined (except rabbit liver microsomes, which were inhibited only approximately 30%).

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