Characterization of Cytosolic Glutathione S-Transferases Involved in the Metabolism of the Aromatase Inhibitor, Exemestane. Article

Teslenko, Irina, Watson, Christy JW, Xia, Zuping et al. (2021). Characterization of Cytosolic Glutathione S-Transferases Involved in the Metabolism of the Aromatase Inhibitor, Exemestane. . 49(12), 1047-1055. 10.1124/dmd.121.000635

cited authors

  • Teslenko, Irina; Watson, Christy JW; Xia, Zuping; Chen, Gang; Lazarus, Philip

fiu authors


  • Exemestane (EXE) is a hormonal therapy used to treat estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer by inhibiting the final step of estrogen biosynthesis catalyzed by the enzyme aromatase. Cysteine conjugates of EXE and its active metabolite 17β-dihydro-EXE (DHE) are the major metabolites found in both the urine and plasma of patients taking EXE. The initial step in cysteine conjugate formation is glutathione conjugation catalyzed by the glutathione S-transferase (GST) family of enzymes. The goal of the present study was to identify cytosolic hepatic GSTs active in the GST-mediated metabolism of EXE and 17β-DHE. Twelve recombinant cytosolic hepatic GSTs were screened for their activity against EXE and 17β-DHE, and glutathionylated EXE and 17β-DHE conjugates were detected by ultra-performance liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry. GST α (GSTA) isoform 1, GST μ (GSTM) isoform 3 and isoform 1 were active against EXE, whereas only GSTA1 exhibited activity against 17β-DHE. GSTM1 exhibited the highest affinity against EXE with a Michaelis-Menten constant (KM) value that was 3.8- and 7.1-fold lower than that observed for GSTA1 and GSTM3, respectively. Of the three GSTs, GSTM3 exhibited the highest intrinsic clearance against EXE (intrinsic clearance = 0.14 nl·min-1·mg-1). The KM values observed for human liver cytosol against EXE (46 μM) and 17β-DHE (77 μM) were similar to those observed for recombinant GSTA1 (53 and 30 μM, respectively). Western blot analysis revealed that GSTA1 and GSTM1 composed 4.3% and 0.57%, respectively, of total protein in human liver cytosol; GSTM3 was not detected. These data suggest that GSTA1 is the major hepatic cytosolic enzyme involved in the clearance of EXE and its major active metabolite, 17β-DHE. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: Most previous studies related to the metabolism of the aromatase inhibitor exemestane (EXE) have focused mainly on phase I metabolic pathways and the glucuronidation phase II metabolic pathway. However, recent studies have indicated that glutathionylation is the major metabolic pathway for EXE. The present study is the first to characterize hepatic glutathione S-transferase (GST) activity against EXE and 17β-dihydro-EXE and to identify GST α 1 and GST μ 1 as the major cytosolic GSTs involved in the hepatic metabolism of EXE.

publication date

  • December 1, 2021


  • Androstadienes
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal
  • Aromatase Inhibitors
  • Breast Neoplasms
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Cysteine
  • Cytosol
  • Estrogens
  • Glutathione Transferase
  • Hepatobiliary Elimination
  • Humans
  • Inactivation, Metabolic
  • Liver
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Receptors, Estrogen

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


  • Print-Electronic

start page

  • 1047

end page

  • 1055


  • 49


  • 12