4-(Methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK), a potent tobacco-specific carcinogen in animals, has been linked to tobacco-related cancers in humans. The cytochrome(s) P-450 (P-450) responsible for the metabolic activation of NNK in humans has not been identified. The present work investigated the ability of human lung and liver microsomes and 12 forms of human P-450, expressed in Hep G2 (hepatoma) cells, to metabolize NNK. Of the 12 P-450 forms, P-450 1A2 had the highest activity in catalyzing the conversion of NNK to the keto alcohol, 4-hydroxy-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone. P-450s 2A6, 2B7, 2E1, 2F1, and 3A5 also had measurable activities in the formation of keto alcohol. The apparent Km and Vmax for the formation of keto alcohol in the P-450 1A2-expressed Hep G2 cell lysate were 309 µm and 55 pmol/min/mg protein, respectively. 4-(Methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol, a reductive product, was the major metabolite formed, whereas the formation of keto alcohol and its aldehyde and acid derivatives (all α-hydroxylation products) constituted approximately 1% of the initial amount of NNK in P450-expressed Hep G2 cell lysate. A similar metabolite pattern was observed with human lung or liver microsomes. In human lung microsomes, the apparent Kms for the formation of 4-hydroxy-4-(3-pyridyl)butyric acid, 4-oxo-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone, NNK-N-oxide, and 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol were 526, 653, 531, and 573 µm, respectively; the formation of keto alcohol was not observed. For human lung microsomes, there was no sex-related difference in NNK metabolism. Carbon monoxide (90% atmosphere) significantly inhibited the metabolism of NNK in human lung and liver microsomes. 7,8-Benzoflavone, an inhibitor of P-450s 1A1 and 1A2, had no effect on NNK metabolism in human lung microsomes but decreased the formation of keto alcohol by 47% in human liver microsomes. Similarly, antibodies against human P-450s 1A2 and 2E1 decreased keto alcohol formation by 42% and 53%, respectively, in human liver microsomes but did not affect NNK metabolism in lung microsomes. Inhibitory antibodies against P-450s 2A1, 2C8, 2D1, or 3A4 had little or no effect on the metabolism of NNK in human liver or lung microsomes. These results demonstrate that human liver and lung microsomes have the capacity to metabolize NNK and that different P-450 forms are responsible for the formation of different metabolites and suggest that other enzymes may be important in the activation of this carcinogen in the human lung.


Supported by NIH Grants CA46535, CA37037, and CA44353; a fellowship from the New Jersey Commission on Cancer Research (89-2050); and National Institute of Environmental Health Services Grants ES-05022 and ES-00267.

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