A Physiologically Based Pharmacokinetic Model for Methyl tert-Butyl Ether in Humans: Implementing Sensitivity and Variability Analyses
Methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) is added to gasoline to reduce carbon monoxide and ozone precursors from automobile emissions. The objectives of this study were to verify the ability of a physiologically based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) model to predict MTBE blood levels in humans and to investigate the effect of variability in the metabolism of MTBE and its influence on the predicted MTBE blood levels. The model structure for MTBE was flow-limited and had six essential compartments: lung, liver, rapidly perfused tissues, slowly perfused tissues, fat, and kidney. In this model, two pathways of metabolism are described to occur in the liver by Michaelis-Menten kinetics. Metabolic rate constants were measured in vitro using human liver microsomes and extrapolated to in vivo whole-body metabolism. Model predictions were compared with data on blood levels of MTBE taken from humans during and after a 1-h inhalation exposure to 1.7 ppm MTBE and after 4-h inhalation exposures to 4 or 40 ppm MTBE. The PBPK model accurately predicted MTBE pharmacokinetics at the high and low MTBE exposure concentrations for all time points. At the intermediate MTBE exposure concentration, however, the model underpredicted early time points while adequately predicting later time points. Results of the sensitivity analysis indicated that the influence of metabolic parameters on model output was dependent on MTBE exposure concentration. Subsequent variability analysis indicated that there was more variability in the actual measured MTBE blood levels than in the blood levels predicted by the PBPK model when using the range of metabolic parameters measured in vitro in human liver samples. By incorporating an understanding of the metabolic processes, this PBPK model can be used to predict blood levels of MTBE, which is important in determining target tissue dose estimates for risk assessment.