American Chemical Society
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Exploring Chemical Routes Relevant to the Toxicity of Paracetamol and Its meta-Analogue at a Molecular Level

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journal contribution
posted on 2017-05-05, 00:00 authored by Romina Castañeda-Arriaga, Annia Galano
Several chemical routes related to the toxicity of paracetamol (APAP, also known as acetaminophen), its analogue N-acetyl-m-aminophenol (AMAP), and their deacetylated derivatives, were investigated using the density functional theory. It was found that AMAP is more resilient to chemical oxidation than APAP. The chemical degradation of AMAP into radical intermediates is predicted to be significant only when it is induced by strong oxidants. This might explain the apparent contradictions among experimental evidence regarding AMAP toxicity. All of the investigated species are incapable of oxidizing DNA, but they can damage lipids by H atom transfer (HAT) from the bis-allylic site, with the phenoxyl radical of AMAP being the most threatening to the lipids’ chemical integrity. Regarding protein damage, Cys residues were identified as the most likely targets. The damage in this case may involve two different routes: (i) HAT from the thiol site by phenoxyl radicals and (ii) protein arylation by the quinone imine (QI) derivatives. Both are not only thermochemically viable, but also are very fast reactions. According to the mechanism identified here as the most likely one for protein arylation, a rather large concentration of QI would be necessary for this damage to be significant. This might explain why APAP is nontoxic in therapeutic doses, while overdoses can result in hepatic toxicity. In addition, the QI derived from both APAP and AMAP were found to be capable of inflicting this kind of damage. In addition, it is proposed that they might increase OH production via the Fenton reaction, which would contribute to their toxicity.