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The Impact of Carboxylesterases in Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics

[ Vol. 20 , Issue. 2 ]


Li Di*   Pages 91 - 102 ( 12 )


Background: Carboxylesterases (CES) play a critical role in catalyzing hydrolysis of esters, amides, carbamates and thioesters, as well as bioconverting prodrugs and soft drugs. The unique tissue distribution of CES enzymes provides great opportunities to design prodrugs or soft drugs for tissue targeting. Marked species differences in CES tissue distribution and catalytic activity are particularly challenging in human translation.

Methods: Review and summarization of CES fundamentals and applications in drug discovery and development.

Results: Human CES1 is one of the most highly expressed drug metabolizing enzymes in the liver, while human intestine only expresses CES2. CES enzymes have moderate to high inter-individual variability and exhibit low to no expression in the fetus, but increase substantially during the first few months of life. The CES genes are highly polymorphic and some CES genetic variants show significant influence on metabolism and clinical outcome of certain drugs. Monkeys appear to be more predictive of human pharmacokinetics for CES substrates than other species. Low risk of clinical drug-drug interaction is anticipated for CES, although they should not be overlooked, particularly interaction with alcohols. CES enzymes are moderately inducible through a number of transcription factors and can be repressed by inflammatory cytokines.

Conclusion: Although significant advances have been made in our understanding of CESs, in vitro - in vivo extrapolation of clearance is still in its infancy and further exploration is needed. In vitro and in vivo tools are continuously being developed to characterize CES substrates and inhibitors.


Carboxylesterases, CES1, CES2, prodrugs, soft drugs, tissue distribution, species differences, IVIVE, substrates, inhibitors, drug design.


Pfizer Inc., Eastern Point Road, Groton, Connecticut, CT 06354

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