Epoxide hydratase was solubilized from human liver microsomal fractions and purified to an extent where the specific activity was 40-fold greater than that of the liver homogenate. Combination of homogenate and purified preparation showed that the increase in activity was not due to the removal of an inhibitor. Monosubstituted oxiranes with a lipophilic substituent larger than an ethyl group (isopropyl, t-butyl, n-hexyl, phenyl) readily interacted as substrates or inhibitors with this purified human epoxide hydratase, whereas those with a small substituent (methyl, ethyl, vinyl) were inactive, probably reflecting greater affinity of the former epoxides owing to lipophilic binding sites near the active site of the enzyme. In a series of oxiranes having a lipophilic substituent of sufficient size (styrene oxides), monosubstituted as well as 1,1- and cis-1,2-disubstituted oxiranes readily served as substrates or inhibitors of the enzyme, but not the trans-1,2-disubstituted, tri- or tetra-substituted oxiranes. trans-Substitution at the oxirane ring apparently prevents access of the oxirane ring to the active site by steric hindrance. Epoxide hydratase was also solubilized from microsomal fractions of rat and guinea-pig liver and purified by the same procedure. Structural requirements for effective interaction of substrates, inhibitors and activators were qualitatively identical for epoxide hydratase from the three sources. However, several quantitative differences were observed. Thus human hepatic epoxide hydratase seems to be very similar to, although not identical with, the enzyme from guinea pig or rat. Studies with epoxide hydratase from the latter two species therefore appear to be significant with respect to man. In addition, knowledge of structural requirements for epoxides to serve as substrates for human epoxide hydratase may prove useful for drug design. Compounds which need aromatic or olefinic moieties for their desired effect would not be expected to lead to accumulation of epoxides if their structure was such as to allow for a metabolically produced epoxide to be rapidly consumed by epoxide hydratase.

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