The P450 type cytochromes are responsible for the metabolism of a wide variety of xenobiotics and endogenous compounds. Although P450-catalyzed reactions are generally thought to lead to detoxication of xenobiotics, the reactions can also produce reactive intermediates that can react with cellular macromolecules leading to toxicity or that can react with the P450s that form them leading to irreversible (i.e., mechanism-based) inactivation. This perspective describes the fundamentals of mechanism-based inactivation as it pertains to P450 enzymes. The experimental approaches used to characterize mechanism-based inactivators are discussed, and the criteria required for a compound to be classified as a mechanism-based inactivator are outlined. The kinetic scheme for mechanism-based inactivation and the calculation of the relevant kinetic constants that describe a particular inactivation event are presented. The structural aspects and important functional groups of several classes of molecules that have been found to impart mechanism-based inactivation upon metabolism by P450s such as acetylenes, thiol-containing compounds that include isothiocyanates, thiazolidinediones, and thiophenes, arylamines, quinones, furanocoumarins, and cyclic tertiary amines are described. Emphasis throughout this perspective is placed on more recent findings with human P450s where the site of modification, whether it be the apoprotein or the heme moiety, and, at least in part, the identity of the reactive intermediate responsible for the loss in P450 activity are known or inferred. Recent advances in trapping procedures as well as new methods for identification of reactive intermediates are presented. A variety of clinically important drugs that act as mechanism-based inactivators of P450s are discussed. The irreversible inactivation of human P450s by these drugs has the potential for causing serious drug-drug interactions that may have severe toxicological effects. The clinical significance of inactivating human P450s for improving drug efficacy as well as drug safety is discussed along with the potential for exploiting mechanism-based inactivators of P450s for therapeutic benefits.
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