Background: Cotinine is the most widely used biomarker of tobacco exposure. At similar smoking levels, African Americans have higher serum cotinine than Whites. UGT2B10-catalyzed cotinine glucuronidation impacts these levels, and African Americans often have low UGT2B10 activity due to a high prevalence of a UGT2B10 splice variant (rs2942857). Methods: Two UGT2B10 SNPs (rs6175900 and rs2942857) were genotyped in 289 African Americans and 627 White smokers. Each smoker was assigned a genetic score of 0, 1, or 2 based on the number of variant alleles. Total nicotine equivalents (TNE), the sum of nicotine and six metabolites, and serum cotinine and 30-hydroxycotinine were quantified. The contribution of UGT2B10 genetic score to cotinine concentration was determined. Results: Serum cotinine was significantly higher in smokers with UGT2B10 genetic scores of 2 versus 0 (327 ng/mL vs. 221 ng/mL; P < 0.001); TNEs were not different. In a linear regression model adjusted for age, gender, cigarettes per day, TNE, race, and CYP2A6 activity, geometric mean cotinine increased 43% between genetic score 2 versus 0 (P < 0.001). A 0.1 increase in the CYP2A6 activity ratio, 30-hydroxycotinine/cotinine, resulted in a 6% decrease in cotinine. After adjustment for UGT2B10 genotype and the other covariants, there was no significant difference in serum cotinine by race. Conclusions: UGT2B10 genotype is a major contributor to cotinine levels and explains the majority of high serum cotinine in African American smokers. Impact: Cotinine levels in smokers may greatly overestimate tobacco exposure and potentially misinform our understanding of ethnic/racial difference in tobacco-related disease if UGT2B10 genotype is not taken into account.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Research reported in this article was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and FDA Center for Tobacco Products (U54 DA031659 to E.C. Donny, D.K. Hatsukami, and S.E. Murphy).
© 2020 American Association for Cancer Research.