The effects of several naturally occurring and synthetic flavonoids on the metabolism of benzo(a)pyrene and aflatoxin B1 were evaluated. Addition of apigenin, chrysin, fisetin, flavanone, galangin, hesperitin, kaempferol, morin, myricetin, naringenin, or quercetin to human liver microsomes inhibited the hydroxylation of benzo(a)pyrene. In contrast to these results, the addition of flavone, nobiletin, tangeretin, or 7, 8-benzoflavone to human liver microsomes caused a many-fold stimulation in the hydroxylation of benzo(a)pyrene, the metabolism of aflatoxin B1 to 2,3-dihydro-2,3-dihydroxyaflatoxin B1, and the metabolic activation of aflatoxin B1 to mutagenic products. Quercetin, morin, and kaempferol inhibited cytochrome c (P-450) reductase in human liver microsomes whereas flavone and 7,8-benzoflavone had no effect. These results suggest that the inhibitory effects of quercetin, morin, and kaempferol on monooxygenase activity may be caused at least in part by an inhibition in the reduction of cytochrome P-450. An examination of the structural features required for the inhibition and stimulation of benzo(a)pyrene hydroxylation indicated that all of the 12 flavonoid inhibitors that were studied possessed hydroxyl groups whereas the flavonoid activators were less polar molecules that lacked hydroxyl groups.

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