Trichloroethylene biotransformation and its role in mutagenicity, carcinogenicity and target organ toxicity. Academic Article uri icon


  • Metabolism is critical for the mutagenicity, carcinogenicity, and other adverse health effects of trichloroethylene (TCE). Despite the relatively small size and simple chemical structure of TCE, its metabolism is quite complex, yielding multiple intermediates and end-products. Experimental animal and human data indicate that TCE metabolism occurs through two major pathways: cytochrome P450 (CYP)-dependent oxidation and glutathione (GSH) conjugation catalyzed by GSH S-transferases (GSTs). Herein we review recent data characterizing TCE processing and flux through these pathways. We describe the catalytic enzymes, their regulation and tissue localization, as well as the evidence for transport and inter-organ processing of metabolites. We address the chemical reactivity of TCE metabolites, highlighting data on mutagenicity of these end-products. Identification in urine of key metabolites, particularly trichloroacetate (TCA), dichloroacetate (DCA), trichloroethanol and its glucuronide (TCOH and TCOG), and N-acetyl-S-(1,2-dichlorovinyl)-L-cysteine (NAcDCVC), in exposed humans and other species (mostly rats and mice) demonstrates function of the two metabolic pathways in vivo. The CYP pathway primarily yields chemically stable end-products. However, the GST pathway conjugate S-(1,2-dichlorovinyl)glutathione (DCVG) is further processed to multiple highly reactive species that are known to be mutagenic, especially in kidney where in situ metabolism occurs. TCE metabolism is highly variable across sexes, species, tissues and individuals. Genetic polymorphisms in several of the key enzymes metabolizing TCE and its intermediates contribute to variability in metabolic profiles and rates. In all, the evidence characterizing the complex metabolism of TCE can inform predictions of adverse responses including mutagenesis, carcinogenesis, and acute and chronic organ-specific toxicity.

published proceedings

  • Mutat Res Rev Mutat Res

altmetric score

  • 6

author list (cited authors)

  • Lash, L. H., Chiu, W. A., Guyton, K. Z., & Rusyn, I.

citation count

  • 78

complete list of authors

  • Lash, Lawrence H||Chiu, Weihsueh A||Guyton, Kathryn Z||Rusyn, Ivan

publication date

  • October 2014