Theophylline Metabolism: Variation and Genetics

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Variation of theophylline metabolism in 54 healthy, nonmedicated adults (13 monozygotic [MZ] twin pairs, 11 dizygotic [DZ] twin pairs, and 6 single individuals) was assessed by kinetic study. Elimination rate constant, clearance (CI), t½, and apparent volume of distribution, as well as urine excretion of unchanged theophylline and of the three major metabolites (1-methyluric acid, 3-methyl-xanthine, and 1,3-dimethyluric acid) were studied. Smokers and men had increased theophylline elimination rates compared to nonsmokers and women. Identical (MZ) twins resembled each other more closely than nonidentical (DZ) twins in the various kinetic parameters, but mean intrapair differences between MZ and DZ twins for all but one of the serum and urinary parameters examined (including t½) were not statistically significant. Correspondingly, estimates of heritability and of intrapair correlation coefficients showed a smaller contribution of genetic factors to variation in theophylline metabolism than had been reported for other drugs investigated by twin studies. Nevertheless, in the family of the individual with the longest theophylline t½, the operation of a rare major gene retarding theophylline metabolism could not be excluded. A father and two out of four children had very slow Cls. This finding would be consistent with, but does not prove, monogenic inheritance.


Presented in part at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September, 1979, and published as an abstract in the American Journal of Human Genetics, 31:56A, 1979.



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