The K-region trans-5,6-dihydrodiols formed in the metabolism of 12-methylbenz[a]anthracene (12-MBA) by liver microsomal preparations from untreated, phenobarbital-treated and 3-methylcholanthrene-treated male Sprague-Dawley rats were found by chiral stationary-phase h.p.l.c. (c.s.p.-h.p.l.c.) analyses to contain (5S,6S)/(5R,6R) enantiomer ratios of 93:7, 88:12 and 97:3 respectively. The absolute stereochemistry of a 12-MBA trans-5,6-dihydrodiol enantiomer was elucidated by the exciton-chirality c.d. method. The 5,6-epoxides formed in the metabolism of 12-MBA by liver microsomal preparations from untreated, phenobarbital-treated and 3-methylcholanthrene-treated male Sprague-Dawley rats in the presence of the epoxide hydrolase inhibitor 3,3,3-trichloropropylene 1,2-oxide were isolated from a mixture of metabolites by normal-phase h.p.l.c., and their (5S,6R)/(5R,6S) enantiomer ratios were found by c.s.p.-h.p.l.c. analyses to be 73:27, 78:22 and 99:1 respectively. The absolute configurations of 12-MBA 5,6-epoxide enantiomers, resolved by c.s.p.-h.p.l.c., were determined via high-resolution (500 MHz) proton-n.m.r. and c.d. spectral analyses of the two isomeric methoxylation products derived from each of the 12-MBA 5,6-epoxide enantiomers. Enantiomeric pairs of the two methoxylation products were resolved by c.s.p.-h.p.l.c. The results indicate that enantiomeric 5S,6R-epoxide and 5S,6S-dihydrodiol were the major enantiomers preferentially formed in the metabolism at the K-region 5,6-double bond of 12-MBA by all three rat liver microsomal preparations. Optically pure 12-MBA 5S,6R-epoxide was hydrated predominantly at the C(6) position (R centre) to form 12-MBA trans-5,6-dihydrodiol with a (5S,6S)/(5R,6R) enantiomer ratio of 97:3. However, optically pure 12-MBA 5R,6S-epoxide was hydrated nearly equally at both C(5) and C(6) positions to form 12-MBA trans-5,6-dihydrodiol with a (5S,6S)/(5R,6R) enantiomer ratio of 57:43.

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