Impacts of diphenylamine NSAID halogenation on bioactivation risks

Mary Alexandra Schleiff, Sasin Payakachat, Benjamin Mark Schleiff, S. Joshua Swamidass, Gunnar Boysen, Grover Paul Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Diphenylamine NSAIDs are highly prescribed therapeutics for chronic pain despite causing symptomatic hepatotoxicity through mitochondrial damage in five percent of patients taking them. Differences in toxicity are attributed to structural modifications to the diphenylamine scaffold rather than its inherent toxicity. We hypothesize that marketed diphenylamine NSAID substituents affect preference and efficiency of bioactivation pathways and clearance. We parsed the FDA DILIrank hepatotoxicity database and modeled marketed drug bioactivation into quinone-species metabolites to identify a family of seven clinically relevant diphenylamine NSAIDs. These drugs fell into two subgroups, i.e., acetic acid and propionic acid diphenylamines, varying in hepatotoxicity risks and modeled bioactivation propensities. We carried out steady-state kinetic studies to assess bioactivation pathways by trapping quinone-species metabolites with dansyl glutathione. Analysis of the glutathione adducts by mass spectrometry characterized structures while dansyl fluorescence provided quantitative yields for their formation. Resulting kinetics identified four possible bioactivation pathways among the drugs, but reaction preference and efficiency depended upon structural modifications to the diphenylamine scaffold. Strikingly, diphenylamine dihalogenation promotes formation of quinone metabolites through four distinct metabolic pathways with high efficiency, whereas those without aromatic halogen atoms were metabolized less efficiently through two or fewer metabolic pathways. Overall metabolism of the drugs was comparable with bioactivation accounting for 4–13% of clearance. Lastly, we calculated daily bioload exposure of quinone-species metabolites based on bioactivation efficiency, bioavailability, and maximal daily dose. The results revealed stratification into the two subgroups; propionic acid diphenylamines had an average four-fold greater daily bioload compared to acetic acid diphenylamines. However, the lack of sufficient study on the hepatotoxicity for all drugs prevents further correlative analyses. These findings provide critical insights on the impact of diphenylamine bioactivation as a precursor to hepatotoxicity and thus, provide a foundation for better risk assessment in drug discovery and development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number152832
StatePublished - Jun 30 2021


  • Bioactivation
  • Diphenylamine NSAID
  • Elimination
  • Hepatotoxicity
  • Metabolism


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