Differential metabolism of acrylonitrile to cyanide is responsible for the greater sensitivity of male vs female mice: role of CYP2E1 and epoxide hydrolases

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Acrylonitrile (AN) is a potent toxicant and a known rodent carcinogen. AN epoxidation to cyanoethylene oxide (CEO) via CYP2E1 and its subsequent metabolism via epoxide hydrolases (EH) to yield cyanide is thought to be responsible for the acute toxicity and mortality of AN. Recent reports showed that male mice are more sensitive than females to the acute toxicity/mortality of AN. The present work was undertaken to assess the metabolic and enzymatic basis for the greater sensitivity of male vs female mice to AN toxicity. Male and female wild-type and CYP2E1-null mice received AN at 0, 2.5, 10, 20, or 40 mg/kg by gavage. Cyanide concentrations were measured at 1 or 3 h after dosing. Current data demonstrated that cyanide levels in blood and tissues of AN-treated wild-type mice of both sexes were significantly greater than in vehicle-treated controls and increased in a dose-dependent manner. In contrast, cyanide levels in AN-treated CYP2E1-null mice were not statistically different from those measured in vehicle-treated controls. Furthermore, higher levels of cyanide were detected in male wild-type mice vs females in association with greater sensitivity of males to the acute toxicity/mortality of this chemical. Using Western blot analysis, negligible difference in CYP2E1 expression with higher levels of soluble and microsomal EH (sEH and mEH) was detected in the liver of male vs female mice. In kidneys, male mice exhibited higher expression of both renal CYP2E1 and sEH than did female mice. In conclusion, higher blood and tissue cyanide levels are responsible for the greater sensitivity of male vs female mice to AN. Further, higher expression of CYP2E1 and EH in male mice may contribute to greater formation of CEO and its subsequent metabolism to yield cyanide, respectively.

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