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Mechanisms of Nitrosamine Mutagenicity and Their Relationship to Rodent Carcinogenic Potency

Snodin, DJ; Trejo-Martin, A; Ponting, DJ; Smith, GF; Czich, A; Cross, K; Custer, L; Elloway, J; Greene, N; Kalgutkar, AS; Stalford, SA; Tennant, RE; Vock, E; Zalewski, A; Zielger, V; Dobo, KL;

A thorough literature review was undertaken to understand how the pathways of N-nitrosamine transformation relate to mutagenic potential and carcinogenic potency in rodents. Empirical and computational evidence indicates that a common radical intermediate is created by CYP-mediated hydrogen abstraction at the α-carbon; it is responsible for both activation, leading to the formation of DNA-reactive diazonium species, and deactivation by denitrosation. There are competing sites of CYP metabolism (e.g., β-carbon), and other reactive species can form following initial bioactivation, although these alternative pathways tend to decrease rather than enhance carcinogenic potency. The activation pathway, oxidative dealkylation, is a common reaction in drug metabolism and evidence indicates that the carbonyl byproduct, e.g., formaldehyde, does not contribute to the toxic properties of N-nitrosamines. Nitric oxide (NO), a side product of denitrosation, can similarly be discounted as an enhancer of N-nitrosamine toxicity based on carcinogenicity data for substances that act as NO-donors. However, not all N-nitrosamines are potent rodent carcinogens. In a significant number of cases, there is a potency overlap with non-N-nitrosamine carcinogens that are not in the Cohort of Concern (CoC; high-potency rodent carcinogens comprising aflatoxin-like-, N-nitroso-, and alkyl-azoxy compounds), while other N-nitrosamines are devoid of carcinogenic potential. In this context, mutagenicity is a useful surrogate for carcinogenicity, as proposed in the ICH M7 (R2) (2023) guidance. Thus, in the safety assessment and control of N-nitrosamines in medicines, it is important to understand those complementary attributes of mechanisms of mutagenicity and structure–activity relationships that translate to elevated potency versus those which are associated with a reduction in, or absence of, carcinogenic potency.