Pharmacogenomics (or pharmacogenetics), the study of the effects of genetic differences on a person’s response to drugs, can help in optimizing drug efficacy and minimizing adverse drug reactions. Interperson difference in drug metabolism is one of the important consequences of such genetic variation. This variation is determined in part by mutations in cytochrome P450 enzymes (CYPs). IMU is part of a major collaborative research project in the area of phamacogenetics and drug metabolism. Working together with USM and UiTM, our group has, since 2000, generated useful population database on genetic polymorphism of various CYP isoforms. We have successfully genotyped three major ethnic groups, Malay, Indian and Chinese for their allelic frequency of important isoforms. These include CYP2D6, CYP2C9, CYP2C8 and CYP2A6. Data generated so far collectively have contributed to our effort in mapping and constructing genomic database for Malaysian population.
Since early 2002, our research has been focusing on developing in vitro methods in studying the functional consequences of genetic polymorphism of CYP enzymes. Using site-directed mutagenesis, CYP mutants, carrying nucleotide changes as reported in known alleles in human populations, were generated and expressed in E. coli system, and the expressed recombinant proteins were characterized using enzyme assays to determine the functional consequences of mutations. We have established a series of HPLC (high performance liquid chromatography)-based and fluorescence-based assays to investigate CYP activities. Assays that have been developed include tolbutamide methylhydroxylase, paclitaxel 6α-hydroxylase, dextromethorphan O-demethylation, testosterone 6β-hydroxylation and coumarin 7-hydroxylase assays. These assays serve as activity markers allowing comparison of catalytic activities of mutant proteins generated. Another focus of our work is to use the developed assays as a screening tool to investigate drug-herb interactions. This was achieved by co-incubation of herbal extracts and active constituents with the probe substrates in the assays followed by characterization of the kinetic behaviors of the enzymes involved using various pharmacokinetic parameters such as Km, Vmax, IC50 and Ki. This work is currently carried out with collaboration from the Institute for Medical Research (IMR) and is supported by MOSTI’s eScienceFund under RM9. It is envisaged that this screening work will give us insights on the potential of the commonly used herbs to cause pharmacokinetic interactions with other drug substrates, and allow us to elucidate the mechanisms involved in the interactions.