The metabolism of n-methyl compounds
The metabolism of compounds containing the N-methyl group is discussed with particular consideration being made to the possible role of the product of oxidative metabolism, the N-hydroxymethyl moiety, in the generation of potentially toxic, reactive electrophiles. Particular pathways which are considered are: (i), the production of formaldehyde; (ii), the generation of iminium ions or imines; and (iii), the formation of N-formyl compounds which might act as formylating agents. 4-Chloro-N-(hydroxymethyl)benzamide and 3-(4-chlorophenyl)-1-hydroxy-methyl-1-methylurea (the product of oxidative metabolism of 3-(4-chlorophenyl)-1,1-dimethylurea) are model carbinolamides which do not readily release formaldehyde. The electrophilic properties of these model carbinolamides were investigated: neither reacted with nucleophiles such as cyanide or glutathione under physiological conditions. In contrast, N-(acetoxymethyl)-4-chlorobenzamide yielded the cyanomethylamide with potassium cyanide and S-(4-chlorobenzamidomethyl)glutathione with glutathione. 4-Chloro-N-(hydroxymethyl)benzamide and 3-(4-chlorophenyl)-1,1-dimethylurea were not biotransformed to electrophilic moieties when incubated with mouse hepatic 9000 x g supernatant and Acetyl-CoA or PAPS-generating system. N-(Acetoxymethyl)-4-chlorobenzamide was non-mutagenic to Salmonella typhimurium in the short term bacterial assay; but toxicity to the bacteria was observed. 4-Chloro-N-(hydroxymethyl)benzamide and 3-(4-chlorophenyl)-1,1-dimethylurea showed no mutagenicity or toxicity in the mutagenicity assay including an Aroclor-induced rat hepatic 9000 x g supernatant. Addition of Acetyl-CoA or a PAPS-generating system did not produce a mutagenic response. 4-Chloro-N-formlbenzamide did not act as a formylating agent towards the weak nucleophile aniline. However, 4-chloro-N-formylbenzamide, N-formylbenzamide, 3-(4-chlorophenyl)-1-formyl-1-methylurea and 3-(4-chlorophenyl)-1-formylurea are all metabolised by mouse hepatic mirosomes and post-microsomal supernatant. The results demonstrate the potential for N-hydroxymethyl compounds to generate highly reactive species if these are substrates for conjugation with sulphate (or acetate). The model compounds employed here, apparently do not show any ability to be conjugated themselves, however, other N-hydroxymethyl compounds might be readily conjugated. The formation of N-formyl compounds does not appear to be toxicologically significant, as adjudged on limited experiments performed, but rather represent a detoxification pathway.