Sex Differences in the Expression of Hepatic Drug Metabolizing Enzymes

Division of Cell and Molecular Biology, Department of Biology, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215, USA.
Molecular pharmacology (Impact Factor: 4.12). 06/2009; 76(2):215-28. DOI: 10.1124/mol.109.056705
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Sex differences in pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics characterize many drugs and contribute to individual differences in drug efficacy and toxicity. Sex-based differences in drug metabolism are the primary cause of sex-dependent pharmacokinetics and reflect underlying sex differences in the expression of hepatic enzymes active in the metabolism of drugs, steroids, fatty acids and environmental chemicals, including cytochromes P450 (P450s), sulfotransferases, glutathione transferases, and UDP-glucuronosyltransferases. Studies in the rat and mouse liver models have identified more than 1000 genes whose expression is sex-dependent; together, these genes impart substantial sexual dimorphism to liver metabolic function and pathophysiology. Sex differences in drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics also occur in humans and are due in part to the female-predominant expression of CYP3A4, the most important P450 catalyst of drug metabolism in human liver. The sexually dimorphic expression of P450s and other liver-expressed genes is regulated by the temporal pattern of plasma growth hormone (GH) release by the pituitary gland, which shows significant sex differences. These differences are most pronounced in rats and mice, where plasma GH profiles are highly pulsatile (intermittent) in male animals versus more frequent (nearly continuous) in female animals. This review discusses key features of the cell signaling and molecular regulatory mechanisms by which these sex-dependent plasma GH patterns impart sex specificity to the liver. Moreover, the essential role proposed for the GH-activated transcription factor signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) 5b, and for hepatic nuclear factor (HNF) 4alpha, as mediators of the sex-dependent effects of GH on the liver, is evaluated. Together, these studies of the cellular, molecular, and gene regulatory mechanisms that underlie sex-based differences in liver gene expression have provided novel insights into the physiological regulation of both xenobiotic and endobiotic metabolism.

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