Received January 9, 2008; Revision received March 12, 2008
Cytochromes P450 represent a numerous family of heme-containing enzymes belonging to the group of monooxygenases. In prokaryotes, cytochromes P450 usually perform a plastic function, whereas in eukaryotes their functions are very diverse. Mammalian cytochromes P450 are components of membranes and are involved in biosynthesis and metabolism of many physiologically active substances; moreover, these cytochromes are unique in their ability to catalyze biotransformation of xenobiotics, i.e. metabolize substances of foreign origin (drugs, toxins, environmental pollutants). The latter promotes elimination of xenobiotics, but sometimes intermediates of their metabolism are even more toxic and dangerous than the original xenobiotics per se. Some catalytic features of cytochromes P450 still need unambiguous explanation, i.e. broad substrate specificity, diversity of catalytic reactions, and unusual kinetics. Under some conditions, cytochromes P450 can produce reactive oxygen species, and this is another problem attracting increasing attention. In this respect, a recent finding in mitochondria of analogs of microsomal cytochromes P450 seems especially intriguing; it was postulated that P450 can be responsible for mitochondrial dysfunction, cell apoptosis, and pathogenesis of some diseases. In this paper the present state of the art concerning these problems is considered.
KEY WORDS: cytochrome P450, endoplasmic reticulum, mitochondria, xenobiotics, ligands, conformation, reactive oxygen species