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Abstract

Tissue expression of drug-metabolizing enzymes influences susceptibility to drugs and carcinogens. Because the biliary epithelium, exposed to bile-borne chemicals, may give rise to drug-induced cholangiopathies and to cholangiocarcinomas, we determined the pattern of expression of drug-metabolizing enzymes in this epithelium. We first demonstrated by blot analyses that biliary epithelial cells (BEC) isolated from human gallbladders display cytochrome P450 (CYP) 1A, 2E1, and 3A, microsomal epoxide hydrolase (mEH), α, μ, and π glutathione S-transferase (GST), transcripts and proteins. We also identified CYP-associated steroid 6β-hydroxylase activity in BEC. CYP and mEH expression was 5- to 20-fold lower in BEC than in autologous hepatocytes, and further differed by a higher ratio of CYP3A5/CYP3A4, and by CYP1A1 predominance over CYP1A2. αGST was highly expressed in both hepatocytes and BEC, while πGST was restricted to BEC. In approximately 50% of individuals, μGST was expressed in hepatocytes and at lower levels in BEC. By using the same antibodies as those used in immunoblots, we could show by immunohistochemistry that CYP2E1, CYP3A, mEH, α, μ, and πGST immunoreactivities are expressed and display a heterogeneous distribution in the epithelium lining the entire biliary tract except for small intrahepatic bile ducts that were devoid of CYP3A and αGST immunoreactivities. In conclusion, BEC contribute to phase II, and although to a lesser extent than hepatocytes, to phase I biotransformation. The distribution of drug-metabolizing enzymes in BEC suggest that they are heterogeneous in their ability to generate and detoxicate reactive metabolites, which may contribute to specific distributions of cholangiopathies.