Carcinogenic tobacco-specific nitrosamines are present in tobacco products and are believed to play a significant role in human cancers associated with tobacco use. Additional amounts of tobacco-specific nitrosamines could be formed endogenously. We tested this hypothesis by treating rats with nicotine and sodium nitrite and analyzing their urine. Initially, we treated groups of rats with (S)-nicotine (60 μmol/kg) and NaNO2 (180 μmol/kg), (S)-nicotine alone, NaNO2 alone or 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK, 12 nmol/kg) by gavage twice daily for 4 days. We collected urine and analyzed for two metabolites of NNK; 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol and its glucuronide. We did not detect these metabolites in the urine of rats treated with nicotine alone or nicotine plus NaNO2, indicating that endogenous conversion of nicotine to NNK did not occur. However, the urine did contain N'-nitrosonornicotine (NNN), N'-nitrosoanabasine (NAB) and N'-nitrosoanatabine (NAT). Analysis of the (S)-nicotine used in this experiment demonstrated that it contained trace amounts of nornicotine, anabasine and anatabine. In a second experiment, we used an identical protocol to compare the endogenous nitrosation of this (S)-nicotine with that of synthetic (R,S)-nicotine, which did not contain detectable amounts of nornicotine, anabasine or anatabine. NNN (0.53 x 10-3% of nicotine dose), NAB (0.68%) and NAT (2.1%) were detected in the urine of the rats treated with the (S)-nicotine and NaNO2. NNN (0.47 x 10-3% of dose), but not NAB or NAT, was present in the urine of the rats treated with synthetic (R,S)-nicotine and NaNO2. NNN probably formed via nitrosation of metabolically formed nornicotine. These results demonstrate for the first time that endogenous formation of tobacco-specific nitrosamines occurs in rats treated with tobacco alkaloids and NaNO2. The potential significance of the results with respect to nitrosamine formation in people who use tobacco products or nicotine replacement therapy is discussed.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cancer Research