1. To investigate the enzymatic basis of the chlorpropamide–alcohol flush reaction (CPAF) we compared the isoenzyme profiles of alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) from liver biopsies, and of ALDH alone from erythrocytes and leucocytes, in CPAF-positive and CPAF-negative subjects.

2. No differences were seen in ADH or ALDH phenotypes, or in the relative activities of the isoenzymes, between the two groups before chlorpropamide was given; in particular, no subjects showed the ‘null’ ALDH phenotype that is associated with the alcohol flush reaction in oriental subjects.

3. There was a significant decrease in erythrocyte ALDH activity after 7 days' treatment with chlorpropamide in CPAF-positive individuals but no such difference was seen in CPAF-negative subjects.

4. These results indicate that CPAF has a different enzymatic basis from the alcohol flush reaction of oriental subjects and suggest that in CPAF-positive subjects erythrocyte ALDH may be particularly susceptible to inhibition by chlorpropamide.

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