Metabolism and Cytotoxicity of Aflatoxin B 1 in Cytochrome P-450-Expressing Human Lung Cells

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A: Current Issues






Taylor & Francis

Publication Date


First Page


Last Page



The mycotoxin aflatoxin B 1 (AFB 1 ) is a hepatocarcinogen in many animal models and probably a human carcinogen. Besides being a dietary carcinogen, AFB 1 has been detected in dusts generated in the processing and transportation of AFB 1 -contaminated products. Inhalation of grain dusts contaminated with AFB 1 may be a risk factor in human lung cancer. Aflatoxin B 1 requires cytochrome P-450 (CYP)- mediated activation to form cytotoxic and DNA-reactive intermediates, and this activation in human liver is mediated by the CYP 1A2 and 3A4 isoforms. Which isoforms are important in AFB 1 activation in human lung is not well understood. To investigate whether these CYPs can activate AFB 1 at low, environmentally relevant concentrations in human lung cells, SV40 immortalized human bronchial epithelial cells (BEAS-2B) that were transfected with cDNA for CYPs 3A4 (B3A4) or 1A2 (B-CMV1A2) were used. B-CMV1A2 cultured in 15 n M AFB 1 produced the AFB 1 -glutathione conjugate (AFB 1 -GSH) and aflatoxin M 1 (AFM 1 ), while B3A4 cells produced only aflatoxin Q 1 (AFQ 1 ) at 0.14 M AFB 1 . Nontransfected BEAS-2B cells produced no metabolites, even at 1.5 m M AFB 1 . Microsomes prepared from B-CMV1A2 and B3A4 cells activated AFB 1 to AFB 1 8,9-epoxide (AFBO), while those from BEAS-2B cells did not produce AFBO. Cytosol from all three cell types was ineffective at glutaathione S-transferase (GST)-mediated trapping of enzymatically generated AFB 1 8,9-epoxide. B-CMV1A2 cells were 100-fold more sensitive to AFB 1 compared to B3A4 cells, and were 6000-fold more sensitive than control BEAS-2B cells. Western immunoblots confirmed that only B-CMV1A2 cells expressed CYP 1A2 protein, while CYP 3A4 was only in B3A4 cells. B-CMV1A2 cells were the most sensitive to AFB 1 , followed by B3A4 cells. CYP 3A4, which has been predicted to activate AFB 1 primarily at higher AFB 1 concentrations, was also responsible for significant AFB 1 toxicity at low concentrations. These data indicate that human lung cells expressing these CYP isoforms are capable of activating AFB 1 , even at environmentally relevant concentrations.


Originally published by Taylor & Francis. Publisher's PDF available through remote link.