, Volume 353, Issue 1, pp 116-121

Cytochromes of the P450 2C subfamily are the major enzymes involved in the O-demethylation of verapamil in humans

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Abstract

The calcium channel blocker verapamil [2,8-bis-(3,4-dimethoxyphenyl)-6-methyl-2-isopropyl-6-azaoctanitrile] undergoes extensive biotransformation in man. We have previously demonstrated cytochrome P450 (CYP) 3A4 and 1A2 to be the enzymes responsible for verapamil N-dealkylation (formation of D-617 [2-(3,4-dimethoxyphenyl)-5-methylamino-2-isopropylvaleronitrile]), and verapamil N-demethylation (formation of norverapamil [2,8-bis(3,4-dimethoxyphenyl)-2-isopropyl-6-azaoctanitrile]), while there was no involvement of CYP3A4 and CYP1A2 in the third initial metabolic step of verapamil, which is verapamil O-demethylation. This pathway yields formation of D-703 [2-(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-8-(3,4-dimethoxyphenyl)-6-methyl-2-isopropyl-6-azaoctanitrile] and D-702 [2-(3,4-dimethoxyphenyl)-8-(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)6-methyl-2-isopropyl-6-azaoctanitrile]. The enzymes catalyzing verapamil O-demethylation have not been characterized so far. We have therefore identified and characterized the enzymes involved in verapamil O-demethylation in humans by using the following in vitro approaches: (I) characterization of O-demethylation kinetics in the presence of the microsomal fraction of human liver, (II) inhibition of verapamil O-demethylation by specific antibodies and selective inhibitors and (111) investigation of metabolite formation in microsomes obtained from yeast strain Saccharomyces cerevisiae W(R), that was genetically engineered for stable expression of human CYP2C8, 2C9 and 2C18.

In human liver microsomes (n=4), the intrinsic clearance (CLint), as derived from the ratio of V max/Km, was significantly higher for O-demethylation to D-703 compared to formation of D-702 following incubation with racemic verapamil (13.9±1.0 vs 2.4±0.6 ml*min-1 *g-1 mean±SD; p<0.05), S-Verapamil (16.8±3.3 vs 2.2±1.2 ml* mini*g-1, p<0.05) and R-verapamil (12.1±2.9 vs 3.6 ±1.3 ml*min-1 * g-1; p<0.05), thus indicating regioselectivity of verapamil O-demethylation process. The CLint of D-703 formation in human liver microsomes showed a modest but significant degree of stereo selectivity (p<0.05) with a S/R-ratio of 1.41±0.17. Anti-LKM2 (anti-liver/kidney microsome) autoantibodies (which inhibit CYP2C9 and 2C19) and sulfaphenazole (a specific CYP2C9 inhibitor) reduced the maximum rate of formation of D-703 by 81.5±4.5% and 45%, that of D-702 by 52.7±7.5% and 72.5%, respectively. Both D-703 and D-702 were formed by stably expressed CYP2C9 and CYP2C18, whereas incubation with CYP2C8 selectively yielded D-703.

In conclusion, our results show that enzymes of the CYP2C subfamily are mainly involved in verapamil O-demethylation. Verapamil therefore has the potential to interact with other drugs which inhibit or induce these enzymes.