Three classes of products are formed when benzo[a]pyrene (BP) is metabolized by cytochrome P-450: dihydrodiols, phenols and the quinones, BP 1,6-, 3,6- and 6,12-dione. These products have been thought to arise from attack of a catalytically-activated electrophilic oxygen atom. In this paper we report chemical and biochemical experiments which demonstrate that BP quinones arise from an initial one-electron oxidation of BP to form its radical cation. BP, 6-fluorobenzo[a]pyrene (6-FBP), 6-chlorobenzo[a]pyrene (6-C1BP), and 6-bromobenzo[a]pyrene (6-BrBP) were metabolized by uninduced and 3-methylcholanthrene-induced rat liver microsomes in the presence of NADPH or cumene hydroperoxide (CHP) as cofactor. BP and 6-FBP produced similar metabolic profiles with induced microsomes in the presence of NADPH or 2 mM CHP. With NADPH both compounds produced dihydrodiols, phenols and quinones, whereas with CHP, they yielded only quinones. Metabolism of BP and 6-FBP was also similar with uninduced microsomes and 2 mM CHP, yielding the same BP quinones. With uninduced microsomes in the presence of NADPH, BP produced all three classes of metabolites, whereas 6-FBP afforded only quinones. At a low concentration of CHP (0.10 mM), BP was metabolized to phenols and quinones, whereas 6-FBP gave only quinones. 6-C1BP and 6-BrBP were poor substrates, forming metabolites only with induced microsomes and NADPH. One-electron oxidation of BP by Mn(OAc)3 occurred exclusively at C-6 with predominant formation of 6-acetoxyBP and small amounts of BP quinones. In the one-electron oxidation of 6-FBP by Mn(OAc)3, the major products obtained were 6-acetoxyBP, a mixture of 1,6- and 3,6-diacetoxyBP, and BP quinones. Reaction of BP and 6-FBP radical cation perchlorates with water produced the same BP quinones. Conversely, electrophilic substitution of 6-FBP with bromine or deuterium ion afforded C-l and/or C-3 derivatives with retention of the fluoro substituent at C-6. These results indicate that metabolic formation of BP quinones from BP and 6-FBP can only derive from their intermediate radical cation.
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