Preferential Glutathione Conjugation of a Reverse Diol Epoxide Compared with a Bay Region Diol Epoxide of Benzo[a]pyrene in Human Hepatocytes

Document Type


Publication Date



Many studies have examined the relationship between polymorphisms in glutathione S-transferase genes and cancer in people exposed to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) such as benzo[a]pyrene (BaP), but the results to date have been modest. Missing from these studies has been an exploration of the formation of the appropriate glutathione conjugates in humans. We incubated human hepatocytes from 10 donors with racemic anti-BaP-7,8-diol-9,10-epoxide (BPDE), believed to be a major ultimate carcinogen of BaP, or with the noncarcinogenic reverse diol epoxide, racemic anti-BaP-9,10-diol-7,8-epoxide (rev-BPDE). Incubations were carried out for 12 or 24 h. We used high-performance liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization-tandem mass spectrometry-selected reaction monitoring at m/z 464 → m/z 317 to analyze the incubation mixtures for the mercapturic acid products that would result from glutathione conjugation. The standard mercapturic acids were synthesized by reaction of BPDE or rev-BPDE with N-acetylcysteine. We obtained convincing evidence in human hepatocytes for mercapturic acid formation from rev-BPDE in all 10 samples, in amounts up to 17 pmol/ml. However, we could detect mercapturic acids from BPDE in only 1 of 10 samples (0.05 pmol/ml). Taken together with our similar previous results of analyses of phenanthrene metabolites in human hepatocytes and human urine, the results of this study indicate that conjugation of BPDE with glutathione is a minor pathway in humans, indicating that glutathione S-transferase genotyping is not an effective method for assessing risk of PAH-induced cancer in humans, at least with respect to the diol epoxide pathway of PAH carcinogenesis.


DOI: 10.1124/dmd.110.034181

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health National Cancer Institute [Grant CA-92025].