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Glucuronidation enzymes, genes and psychiatry

Jose de Leon
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1461145703003249 57-72 First published online: 1 March 2003


The phase I cytochrome P450 (CYP) isoenzymes have received substantial attention in the pharmacogenetic literature. Researchers are beginning to examine the role of the phase II UDP-glucuronosyltransferase (UGT) enzymes, which produce products that are more water-soluble, less toxic and more readily excreted than the parent compounds. Several reasons may have contributed to neglect of UGTs (compared to CYPs) including: (1) the overlapping activity of UGTs and lack of selective probes; (2) the complexity of the glucuronidation cycle; and (3) the difficulty in developing analytic methods to measure glucuronides. Current CYP knowledge is used as a model to predict advances in UGT knowledge. At least 24 different UGT human genes have been identified and are classified in two families (UGT1 and UGT2) based on sequence homology. The UGT1A subfamily (genes located on chromosome 2) glucuronidates bilirubin, thyroid hormones, and some medications. UGT1A4 metabolizes tricyclic antidepressants and some antipsychotics. The UGT2B subfamily (genes located on chromosome 6) glucuronidates sexual steroids and bile acids. Oxazepam and lorazepam are mainly metabolized by glucuronidation. Anti-epileptics with mood-stabilizing properties are frequently metabolized by UGTs. Opioid and nicotine addiction may also be influenced by glucuronidation. Glucuronidation of serotonin may be important during fetal development. UGTs appear to be in small concentrations in brain tissue (and higher concentrations at brain capillaries). However, UGTs may be localized in certain brain areas to provide a neuroprotective function. This review illustrates the importance of glucuronidation and the implications for psychiatry.

Key words
  • Glucuronidation
  • metabolism
  • polymorphisms
  • psychiatry
  • UDP-glucuronosyltransferases