Demethylation of neferine in human liver microsomes and formation of quinone methide metabolites mediated by CYP3A4 accentuates its cytotoxicity.Chem Biol Interact. 2014 Dec 05; 224:89-99.CB
Neferine is a bisbenzylisoquinoline alkaloid isolated from the seed embryos of Nelumbonucifera Gaertn (Lotus) with various potent pharmacological effects. Recently, neferine has attracted attention for its anti-tumor activities. Our study explored its metabolism and cytotoxicity mechanism. Approaches using chemical inhibitors and recombinant human enzymes to characterize the involved enzymes and kinetic studies indicated that the demethylation of neferine by cytochrome P450 (CYP) 2D6 and CYP3A4 fitted a biphasic kinetic profile. Glutathione (GSH) was used as a trapping agent to identify reactive metabolites of neferine, and four novel GSH conjugates were detected with [M+H](+) ions at m/z 902.4, 916.2, 916.1, and 930.4. Based on its structure containing para-methylene phenol and results from a product ion scan, GSH tends to conjugate with C9' after undergoing oxidative metabolism to form the binding site predominated by CYP3A4. Furthermore, the addition of recombinant human GSTA1, GSTT1, and GSTP1 had little effect on the production of the GSH conjugates. In a 3-[4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl]-2,5 diphenyltetrazolium bromide assay, combined with the GSH modulators l-buthionine sulfoximine or N-acetyl-l-cysteine, neferine treatment of MDCK-hCYP3A4 and HepG2 cells revealed that CYP3A4 expression and cellular GSH content could cause an EC50 shift. Metabolic activation mediated by CYP3A4 and GSH depletion significantly enhanced neferine-induced cytotoxicity.