Bioactivation of Sitaxentan in Liver Microsomes, Hepatocytes, and Expressed Human P450s with Characterization of the Glutathione Conjugate by Liquid Chromatography Tandem Mass Spectrometry - Chemical Research in Toxicology (ACS Publications)
Sitaxentan is a selective endothelin-A receptor antagonist that was marketed as Thelin in several European countries and Canada for pulmonary arterial hypertension. Sitaxentan was undergoing further clinical trials in the United States but due to four deaths and one case of liver transplantation from severe liver toxicity that appeared to be idiosyncratic in nature, it was withdrawn worldwide in December, 2010. Sitaxentan contains a 1,3-benzodioxole ring that undergoes enzymatic demethyleneation to an ortho-catechol metabolite that can further oxidize to a reactive ortho-quinone metabolite. Here, we report the detection and mass spectral characterization of a glutathione conjugate of this sitaxentan quinone reactive metabolite that was trapped in vitro using mouse, rat, dog, and human liver microsomes supplemented with NADPH and glutathione and that was also observed in rat and human hepatocytes. Using human liver microsomes, we also demonstrated that P450 3A4 undergoes time-dependent inhibition. Density functional calculations on the catechol metabolite of sitaxentan indicated that the reaction leading to the quinone was thermodynamically favorable with an enthalpy change of −6.3 kcal/mol. Using density functional methodology, we modeled the attack of glutathione on the quinone with an S-methyl thiolate anion which allowed us to predict, based on the difference in transition state energies, that the 2-position on the phenyl ring was more likely than the 5-position as the site of glutathione conjugation. Overall, our results demonstrated that sitaxentan is capable of facile formation of a reactive ortho-quinone metabolite capable of reacting with glutathione and may rationalize the idiosyncratic nature of the hepatotoxicity that led to its withdrawal.