Smoking, alcoholism and genetic polymorphisms alter CYP2B6 levels in human brain

Sharon Miksys, Caryn Lerman, Peter G. Shields, Deborah C. Mash, Rachel F. Tyndale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

166 Scopus citations


CYP2B6 metabolizes drugs such as nicotine and bupropion, and many toxins and carcinogens. Nicotine induces CYP2B1 in rat brain and in humans polymorphic variation in CYP2B6 affects smoking cessation rates. The aim of this study was to compare CYP2B6 expression in brains of human smokers and non-smokers and alcoholics and non-alcoholics (n=26). CYP2B6 expression was brain region-specific, and was observed in both neurons and astrocytes. CYP2B6 levels were higher in brains of smokers and alcoholics, particularly in cerebellar Purkinje cells and hippocampal pyramidal neurons, cells known to be damaged in alcoholics. Significantly more (p<0.05) CYP2B6 protein was seen in four brain regions of smoking alcoholics compared to non-smoking non-alcoholics: hippocampus (5.8-fold), caudate nucleus (3.3-fold), putamen (3.0-fold) and cerebellar hemisphere (1.6-fold). The genetic variant C1459T (R487C) has been associated with reduced hepatic enzyme levels, stability and activity. Preliminary genotyping of this small sample (n=24) suggested that individuals with the CC genotype had higher brain CYP2B6 than those with the CT or TT genotype. Higher brain CYP2B6 activity in smokers and alcoholics may cause altered sensitivity to centrally acting drugs, increased susceptibility to neurotoxins and carcinogenic xenobiotics and contribute to central tolerance to nicotine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-132
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2003


  • Alcoholism
  • Bupropion
  • CYP2B6
  • Drug metabolism
  • Human brain
  • Nicotine
  • Smoking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Drug Discovery
  • Pharmacology


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