The CYP genes encode enzymes of the cytochrome P-450 superfamily. Cytochrome P-450 (CYP) enzymes are expressed mainly in the liver and are active in mono-oxygenation and hydroxylation of various xenobiotics, including drugs and alcohols, as well as that of endogenous compounds such as steroids, bile acids, prostaglandins, leukotrienes and biogenic amines. In the liver the CYP enzymes are constitutively expressed and commonly also induced by chemicals in a characteristic zonated pattern with high expression prevailing in the downstream perivenous region. In the present review we summarize recent studies, mainly based on rat liver, on the factors regulating this position-dependent expression and induction. Pituitary-dependent signals mediated by growth hormone and thyroid hormone seem to selectively down-regulate the upstream periportal expression of certain CYP forms. It is at present unknown to what extent other hormones that also affect total hepatic CYP activities, i.e. insulin, glucagon, glucocorticoids and gonadal hormones, act zone-specifically. The expression and induction of CYP enzymes in the perivenous region probably have important toxicological implications, since many CYP-activated chemicals cause cell injury primarily in this region of the liver.

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