We investigated the relationship between oligomerization of CYP3A4 (cytochrome P450 3A4) and its response to ANF (α-naphthoflavone), a prototypical heterotropic activator. The addition of ANF resulted in over a 2-fold increase in the rate of CYP3A4-dependent debenzylation of 7-BFC [7-benzyloxy-4-(trifluoromethyl)coumarin] in HLM (human liver microsomes), but failed to produce activation in BD Supersomes™ or Baculosomes® containing recombinant CYP3A4 and NADPH-CPR (cytochrome P450 reductase). However, incorporation of purified CYP3A4 into Supersomes™ containing only recombinant CPR reproduced the behaviour observed with HLM. The activation in this system was dependent on the surface density of the enzyme. Although no activation was detectable at an L/P (lipid/P450) ratio ≥750, it reached 225% at an L/P ratio of 140. To explore the relationship between this effect and CYP3A4 oligomerization, we probed P450–P450 interactions with a new technique that employs LRET (luminescence resonance energy transfer). The amplitude of LRET in mixed oligomers of the haem protein labelled with donor and acceptor fluorophores exhibited a sigmoidal dependence on the surface density of CYP3A4 in Supersomes™. The addition of ANF eliminated this sigmoidal character and increased the degree of oligomerization at low enzyme concentrations. Therefore the mechanisms of CYP3A4 allostery with ANF involve effector-dependent modulation of P450–P450 interactions.

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