To investigate if the nicotine metabolite ratio (NMR, the ratio of nicotine metabolites 3′-hydroxycotinine/cotinine) is a reliable phenotypic biomarker for nicotine clearance across races, and as a function of differences in the rate of nicotine, cotinine and 3′-hydroxycotinine glucuronidation and UGT genotypes.
Participants [Caucasians (Whites), African Americans (Blacks) and Asian-Americans (Asians)] received an oral solution of deuterium-labeled nicotine and its metabolite cotinine. Plasma and saliva concentrations of nicotine and cotinine were used to determine oral clearances. Rates of glucuronidation were assessed from urine glucuronide/parent ratios, and UGT2B10 and UGT2B17 genotypes from DNA.
Among the 227 participants, 96 (42%) were White, 67 (30%) Asian and 64 (28%) Black. Compared to the other two races, Whites had higher nicotine and cotinine total oral clearance, Blacks had lower nicotine and cotinine glucuronidation rates and Asians had lower 3′-hydroxycotinine glucuronidation rates. A strong positive correlation (correlations coefficients 0.77–0.84; P < 0.001) between NMR and nicotine oral clearance was found for all three races, and NMR remained a strong predictor for the nicotine oral clearance while adjusting for race, sex and age. Neither the metabolite glucuronidation ratios nor the UGT genotypes had significant effects on the ability of NMR to predict nicotine oral clearance.
NMR appears to be a reliable phenotypic biomarker for nicotine clearance across races, glucuronidation phenotypes and genotypes. Racial differences in the relationships between NMR, smoking behaviors and addiction are unlikely to be related to an inadequate estimation of nicotine clearance on the basis of NMR.