Autoantibodies against specific human cytochrome P450s have been found in the sera of patients suffering from a variety of diseases, including those caused by drugs. In the cases of tienilic acid- and dihydralazine-induced hepatitis, patients have serum autoantibodies directed against cytochromes P450 2C9 and P450 1A2, respectively. In the present study, we have found that 25 of 56 (45%) patients diagnosed with halothane hepatitis have autoantibodies that react with human cytochrome P450 2E1 that was purified from a baculovirus expression system. The autoantibodies inhibited the activity of cytochrome P450 2E1 and appeared to be directed against mainly conformational epitopes. In addition, because cytochrome P450 2E1 became trifluoroacetylated when it oxidatively metabolized halothane, it is possible that the covalently altered form of cytochrome P450 2E1 may be able to bypass the immunologic tolerance that normally exists against cytochrome P450 2E1. A similar mechanism may explain the formation of autoantibodies that have been found against other cellular targets of the reactive trifluoroacetyl chloride metabolite of halothane.
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