• Article

In vivo and in vitro kinetics of ethylene oxide metabolism in rats and mice

Ethylene oxide (EO) is a direct-acting mutagen and animal carcinogen used as an industrial intermediate and sterilant with a high potential for human exposure. Kinetics of EO metabolism in rodents can be used to develop human EO dosimetry models. This study examined the kinetics of EO metabolism in vivo and in vitro in male and female F-344 rats and B6C3F1 mice. In vivo studies measured blood and tissue EO levels during and 2-20 min following whole-body inhalation exposure (4 hr, 100 or 330 ppm EO). At 100 ppm EO, the half-life of elimination (t1/2) in rats was 13.8 +/- 0.3 (mean +/- SD) and 10.8 +/- 2.4 min for males and females, respectively, compared to a t1/2 in mice of 3.12 +/- 0.2 and 2.4 +/- 0.2 min in males and females, respectively. On exposure to 330 ppm EO, the t1/2 in mice increased approx twofold, while no change in t1/2 was observed in rats. In vitro kinetic parameters (Vmax and KM) of EO metabolism were determined using tissue cytosol and microsomes. EO metabolism in vitro occurred primarily via cytosolic glutathione S-transferase-mediated EO-GSH conjugation (cGST-EO), with highest activity in the liver. Liver cGST-EO activity (Vmax) was 258 +/- 86.9 and 287 +/- 49.0 nmol/mg protein/min (mean +/- SD) in male and female mice, respectively, compared to 52.7 +/- 10.8 and 29.3 +/- 4.9 in male and female rats, respectively. In rats, but not mice, there was a statistically significant (p < 0.05) gender difference in the Vmax for liver cGST. The KM for liver cGST-EO was approximately 10 mM in both species. The higher Vmax values observed in mice are consistent with the more rapid elimination of EO observed for this species in vivo compared to rats


Brown, CD., Wong, BA., & Fennell, T. (1996). In vivo and in vitro kinetics of ethylene oxide metabolism in rats and mice. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, 136(1), 8-19.