Cholesterol-5,6-epoxides: Chemistry, biochemistry, metabolic fate and cancer. - Inserm - Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale Access content directly
Journal Articles Biochimie Year : 2012

Cholesterol-5,6-epoxides: Chemistry, biochemistry, metabolic fate and cancer.


In the nineteen sixties it was proposed that cholesterol might be involved in the etiology of cancers and cholesterol oxidation products were suspected of being causative agents. Researchers had focused their attention on cholesterol-5,6-epoxides (5,6-ECs) based on several lines of evidence: 1) 5,6-ECs contained an oxirane group that was supposed to confer alkylating properties such as those observed for aliphatic and aromatic epoxides. 2) cholesterol-5,6-epoxide hydrolase (ChEH) was induced in pre-neoplastic lesions of skin from rats exposed to ultraviolet irradiations and ChEH was proposed to be involved in detoxification processes like other epoxide hydrolases. However, 5,6-ECs failed to induce carcinogenicity in rodents which ruled out a potent carcinogenic potential for 5,6-ECs. Meanwhile, clinical studies revealed an anomalous increase in the concentrations of 5,6β-EC in the nipple fluids of patients with pre-neoplastic breast lesions and in the blood of patients with endometrious cancers, suggesting that 5,6-ECs metabolism could be linked with cancer. Paradoxically, ChEH has been recently shown to be totally inhibited by therapeutic concentrations of tamoxifen (Tam), which is one of the main drugs used in the hormonotherapy and the chemoprevention of breast cancers. These data would suggest that the accumulation of 5,6-ECs could represent a risk factor, but we found that 5,6-ECs were involved in the induction of breast cancer cell differentiation and death induced by Tam suggesting a positive role of 5,6-ECs. These observations meant that the biochemistry and the metabolism of 5,6-ECs needed to be extensively studied. We will review the current knowledge and the future direction of 5,6-ECs chemistry, biochemistry, metabolism, and relationship with cancer.

Dates and versions

inserm-00743461 , version 1 (19-10-2012)



Marc Poirot, Sandrine Silvente-Poirot. Cholesterol-5,6-epoxides: Chemistry, biochemistry, metabolic fate and cancer.. Biochimie, 2012, 95 (3), pp.622-31. ⟨10.1016/j.biochi.2012.05.006⟩. ⟨inserm-00743461⟩


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