Studies of the Metabolism and the Toxicity of N-Methylformamide and Related Amides

  • Andrew J. Shaw

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The hepatotoxicity of the industrial solvent and investigational anti-tumour agent N-methylformamide (NMF, HOCNHCH3) and several structural analogues was assessed in mice. NMF and its ethyl analogue (NEF) were equipotent hepatotoxins causing extensive centrilobular necrosis and damage to the gall bladder. Pretreatment of mice with SKF525A did not influence the toxicity of these N-alkylformamides. Replacement of the formyl hydrogen of NMF with deuterium or methyl significantly reduced its hepatotoxicity. An in vitro model for the study of the toxicity and metabolism of N-alkylformamides was developed using isolated mouse hepatocytes. The cytotoxicity of NMF in vitro was concentration-dependent with maximal toxicity being achieved at concentrations of 5mM or above. The cytotoxic potential of related amides correlated well with their in vivo hepatotoxic potential. Pretreatment of mice with buthionine sulphoximine (BSO), which depleted hepatocytic levels of glutathione to 15% of control values, exacerbated the cytotoxicity of NMF towards the hepatocytes. NMF (1mM or above), incubated with isolated mouse hepatocytes, depleted intracellular glutathione levels to 26% of control values within 4h. Depletion of glutathione was quantitatively matched by the formation of a carbamoylating metabolite. Metabolism was dependent on the concentration of NMF and was drastically reduced in incubations of hepatocytes isolated from mice pretreated with BSO. The carbamoylating metabolite, S-(N-methylcarbamoyl)-glutathione (SMG), was identified in vitro using FAB-MS. The generation of SMG was subject to a large primary H/D kinetic isotope effect when the formyl hydrogen was replaced with deuterium. Likewise, glutathione depletion and metabolite formation were reduced or abolished by the deuteration or methylation of the formyl moiety of NMF. NEF, like NMF, depleted hepatocytic glutathione levels and was metabolised to a carbamoylating metabolite. Radioactivity derived from 14C-NMF and 14C-NEF, labelled in the alkyl moieties, was found to be irreversibly associated with microsomal protein on incubation in vitro. Binding was dependent on the presence of NADPH and was mostly abolished in the presence of reduced glutathione. SKF525A failed to influence the binding.
Date of Award1988
Original languageEnglish


  • metabolism
  • toxicity
  • N-Methylformamide
  • related amides

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