Methadone metabolism by human placenta

Tatiana N. Nanovskaya, Sujal V. Deshmukh, Ilona A. Nekhayeva, Olga L. Zharikova, Gary D.V. Hankins, Mahmoud S. Ahmed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Methadone pharmacotherapy is considered the standard for treatment of the pregnant heroin/opioid addict. One of the factors affecting the transfer kinetics of opioids across human placenta and their levels in the fetal circulation is their metabolism by the tissue. The aim of this investigation is to identify the enzyme(s) responsible for the metabolism of methadone, determine the kinetics of the reaction and the metabolites formed utilizing placental tissue obtained from term healthy pregnancies. Microsomal fractions of trophoblast tissue homogenates had the highest activity in catalyzing the metabolism of methadone. The product formed was identified by HPLC-UV as 2-ethylidine-1,5-dimethyl-3,3-diphenylpyrrolidine (EDDP). Inhibitors selective for cytochrome P450 (CYP) isozymes were used to identify the enzyme catalyzing the biotransformation of methadone. Aminoglutethimide and 4- hydroxyandrostenedione inhibited EDDP formation by 88 and 70%, respectively, suggesting that CYP19/aromatase is the enzyme catalyzing the reaction. This was confirmed by the effect of monoclonal antibodies raised against CYP19 that caused an 80% inhibition of the reaction. The apparent Km and V max values for the CYP19 catalyzed metabolism of methadone to EDDP were 424 ± 92 μM and 420 ± 89 pmol (mg protein)-1 min-1, respectively. Kinetic analysis of a cDNA-expressed CYP19 for the metabolism of methadone to EDDP was identical to that by placental microsomes. Taken together, these data indicate that CYP19/aromatase is the major enzyme responsible for the metabolism of methadone to EDDP in term human placentas obtained from healthy pregnancies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)583-591
Number of pages9
JournalBiochemical Pharmacology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2004


  • 2-ethyl-5-methyl-3,3-diphenylpyrroline
  • 2-ethylidene-1,5-dimethyl-3,3-diphenylpyrrolidine
  • Aromatase
  • BUP
  • CYP
  • EDDP
  • EMDP
  • Human placenta
  • L-α-acetylmethadol
  • LAAM
  • Metabolism
  • Methadone
  • Pregnancy
  • TCA
  • buprenorphine
  • cytochrome P450
  • trichloroacetic acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Pharmacology


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