Furan is a rodent hepatotoxicant and carcinogen. Because this compound is an important industrial intermediate and has been detected in heat-processed foods and smoke, humans are likely exposed to this toxic compound. Characterization of urinary metabolites of furan will lead to the development of biomarkers to assess human health risks associated with furan exposure. Previous studies indicate that furan is oxidized to a reactive α,β-unsaturated dialdehyde, cis-2-butene-1,4-dial (BDA), in a reaction catalyzed by cytochrome P450. Five previously characterized metabolites are derived from the reaction of BDA with cellular nucleophiles such as glutathione and protein. They include the monoglutathione reaction product, N-[4-carboxy-4-(3-mercapto-1H-pyrrol-1-yl)-1-oxobutyl]-L-cysteinylglycine cyclic sulfide, and its downstream metabolite, S-[1-(1,3-dicarboxypropyl)-1H-pyrrol-3- yl]methylthiol, as well as (R)-2-acetylamino-6-(2,5-dihydro-2-oxo-1H-pyrrol-1- yl)-1-hexanoic acid and N-acetyl-S-[1-(5-acetylamino-5-carboxypentyl)-1H-pyrrol- 3-yl]-L-cysteine and its sulfoxide. The last two compounds are downstream metabolites of a BDA-derived cysteine - lysine cross-link, S-[1-(5-amino-5- carboxypentyl)-1H-pyrrol-3-yl]-L-cysteine. In this report, we present the characterization of seven additional urinary furan metabolites, all of which are derived from this cross-link. The cysteinyl residue is subject to several biotransformation reactions, including N-acetylation and S-oxidation. Alternatively, it can undergo β-elimination followed by S-methylation to a methylthiol intermediate that is further oxidized to a sulfoxide. The lysine portion of the cross-link either is N-acetylated or undergoes a transamination reaction to generate an α-ketoacid metabolite that undergoes oxidative decarboxylation. Some of these metabolites are among the most abundant furan metabolites present in urine as judged by LC-MS/MS analysis, indicating that the oxidation of furan to BDA and BDA's subsequent reaction with cellular cysteine and lysine residues may represent a significant in vivo pathway of furan biotransformation. Because they are derived from cellular BDA reaction products, these metabolites are markers of furan exposure and bioactivation and could be explored as potential biomarkers in human studies.
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