Background: Tobacco exposure is often quantified by serum or saliva concentrations of the primary nicotine metabolite, cotinine. However, average cotinine concentrations are higher in African Americans (AA) compared with Whites with similar smoking levels. Cotinine is metabolized by UGT2B10 and CYP2A6, and low UGT2B10 activity is common in AA, due to the prevalence of a UGT2B10 splice variant. Methods: UGT2B10 activity was phenotyped in 1,446 smokers (34% AA) by measuring the percentage of cotinine excreted as a glucuronide. Urinary total nicotine equivalents (TNE), the sum of nicotine and 6 metabolites, were determined to quantify smoking dose, and cotinine and 30-hydroxycotinine were quantified in saliva (study 1) or serum (study 2). Results: Ninety-seven smokers (78% AA) were null for UGT2B10 activity, and the saliva and serum cotinine levels, after adjustment for TNE and cigarettes per day (CPD), were 68% and 48% higher in these smokers compared with nonnull smokers (P < 0.001). After adjustment for TNE and CPD, salivary cotinine was 35% higher, and serum cotinine 24% higher in AA versus White smokers, but with additional adjustment for UGT2B10 activity, there were no significant differences in saliva and serum cotinine concentrations between these two groups. Conclusions: UGT2B10 activity significantly influences plasma cotinine levels, and higher cotinine concentrations in AA versus White smokers (after adjustment for smoking dose) result from lower levels of UGT2B10-catalyzed cotinine glucuronidation by AA. Impact: UGT2B10 activity or genotype should be considered when using cotinine as a tobacco exposure biomarker, particularly in populations such as AA with high frequencies of UGT2B10 nonfunctional variants.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Grant Support Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and FDA Center for Tobacco Products (CTP; U54 DA031659; to E.C. Donny, D.K. Hatsukami, and S.E. Murphy).