Diclofenac is eliminated predominantly (approximately 50%) as its 4'-hydroxylated metabolite in humans, whereas the acyl glucuronide (AG) pathway appears more important in rats (approximately 50%) and dogs (>80-90%). However, previous studies of diclofenac oxidative metabolism in human liver microsomes (HLMs) have yielded pronounced underprediction of human in vivo clearance. We determined the relative quantitative importance of 4'-hydroxy and AG pathways of diclofenac metabolism in rat, dog, and human liver microsomes. Microsomal intrinsic clearance values (CL(int) = V(max)/K(m)) were determined and used to extrapolate the in vivo blood clearance of diclofenac in these species. Clearance of diclofenac was accurately predicted from microsomal data only when both the AG and the 4'-hydroxy pathways were considered. However, the fact that the AG pathway in HLMs accounted for ~75% of the estimated hepatic CL(int) of diclofenac is apparently inconsistent with the 4'-hydroxy diclofenac excretion data in humans. Interestingly, upon incubation with HLMs, significant oxidative metabolism of diclofenac AG, directly to 4'-hydroxy diclofenac AG, was observed. The estimated hepatic CL(int) of this pathway suggested that a significant fraction of the intrahepatically formed diclofenac AG may be converted to its 4'-hydroxy derivative in vivo. Further experiments indicated that this novel oxidative reaction was catalyzed by CYP2C8, as opposed to CYP2C9-catalyzed 4'-hydroxylation of diclofenac. These findings may have general implications in the use of total (free + conjugated) oxidative metabolite excretion for determining primary routes of drug clearance and may question the utility of diclofenac as a probe for phenotyping human CYP2C9 activity in vivo via measurement of its pharmacokinetics and total 4'-hydroxy diclofenac urinary excretion.
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