Cytochrome P450-dependent desaturation of the anticonvulsant drug valproic acid (VPA) results in formation of the hepatotoxin, 4-ene-VPA. Polytherapy with other anticonvulsants which are known P450 inducers increases the flux through this bioactivation pathway. The aim of the present study was to identify specific, inducible forms of human liver P450 which catalyze terminal desaturation of VPA. Oxidized VPA metabolites formed in an NADPH-dependent manner by human liver microsomes were quantified by gas-chromatography/mass spectrometry. In vitro reaction conditions were established which reflected the product profile found in vivo. Production of 4-ene-VPA by microsomal P450s could be inhibited significantly by coumarin, sulfaphenazole and diethyldithiocarbamate, but not by triacetyloleandomycin, quinidine or furafylline. Recombinant human CYP3A4 did not form detectable levels of 4-ene-VPA and, of nine additional isoforms expressed in either HepG2 or lymphoblastoid cells which were screened for VPA desaturase activity, only CYP2C9 and CYP2A6 formed detectable levels of metabolite. Consequently, CYP3A4, the isoform usually associated with induction by anticonvulsants cannot be responsible for the enhanced 4-ene-VPA formation that occurs during polytherapy. Instead, enhanced activity in vivo likely results from induction of CYP2A6 and/or CYP2C9.
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