Interindividual variation in the metabolic activation of heterocyclic amines and their N-hydroxy derivatives in primary cultures of human mammary epithelial cells

E M Stone, J A Williams, P L Grover, B A Gusterson, D H Phillips

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44 Citations (Scopus)


The heterocyclic amines, 2-amino-3-methylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoline (IQ), 2-amino-3,4-dimethylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoline (MeIQ) and 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine (PhIP) are pyrolysis products formed when meat is cooked and are rodent mammary carcinogens. They are thought to be metabolically activated by N-hydroxylation, catalysed by cytochrome P450 (CYP), followed by O-acetylation catalysed by N-acetyltransferases. Primary cultures of human mammary epithelial cells (HMECs) prepared from up to 26 individuals for each compound, were treated with IQ, MeIQ, or PhIP (500 microM) or with N-hydroxy-2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine (N-OH-PhIP) or N-hydroxy-2-amino-3-methylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoline (N-OH-IQ) (20 microM) and the levels of adduct formation in their DNA analysed by 32P-post-labelling. In order to investigate whether pharmacogenetic polymorphisms influence DNA adduct formation, the NAT2 genotype of each individual was determined by a polymerase chain reaction-restriction fragment length polymorphism (PCR-RFLP) method that distinguishes between the wild-type and four variant alleles. Presence of two variant alleles designates a slow NAT2 acetylator, whereas individuals with one or two wild-type alleles are designated fast NAT2 acetylators. Interindividual variations in total DNA adduct levels ranged for IQ from 0.64-63.1 DNA adducts per 10(8) nucleotides (mean 7.80), for MeIQ from 1.99-17.8 (mean 6.63), for PhIP from 0.13-4.0 (mean 0.96), for N-OH-PhIP from 6.32-497 (mean 176) and for N-OH-IQ from 0.92-30.6 (mean 9.24). The higher adduct levels observed in cells treated with the N-OH metabolites suggests that N-hydroxylation is the rate-limiting step in HMECs and this may be due to low CYP levels. In contrast, the Phase II reaction catalysed by N-acetyltransferases is probably the major step in the metabolic activation of heterocyclic amines that occurs in the breast. Higher mean levels of heterocyclic amine-DNA adduct formation were detected in the cells of NAT2 fast acetylators compared with slow acetylators, with mean adduct levels per 10(8) nucleotides following IQ treatment, of 12.74 and 3.57 respectively, following PhIP treatment, of 1.20 and 0.74, respectively, following MeIQ treatment, of 7.90 and 5.08, respectively and following N-OH-PhIP-treatment, of 243.1 and 130.0, respectively. However, due to the large variations in adduct levels, these differences in mean values were not statistically significant with the limited number of individuals studied. This appears to be the first pilot study to demonstrate interindividual variations in the metabolic activation of heterocyclic amines and their metabolic intermediates in primary cultures of HMECs in vitro.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)873-9
Number of pages7
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 1998


  • Arylamine N-Acetyltransferase
  • Biotransformation
  • Breast
  • Carcinogens
  • Cells, Cultured
  • DNA Adducts
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Epithelial Cells
  • Humans
  • Imidazoles
  • Polymorphism, Restriction Fragment Length
  • Quinolines


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