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The metabolism of 2-amino-3,8-dimethylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoxaline (MeIQx) and 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine (PhIP) was investigated in primary human and rat hepatocytes. The genotoxic metabolites 2-(hydroxyamino)-3,8-dimethylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoxaline (HONH-MeIQx) and 2-(hydroxyamino)-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine (HONH-PhIP), which are formed by cytochrome P4501A2 (CYP1A2), were detected as stable N(2)-glucuronide and N(2)- and N(3)-glucuronide conjugates, respectively. These products accounted for as much as 10% of the amount of MeIQx and 60% of PhIP added to human hepatocytes. Significantly lower amounts of these products were formed in rat hepatocytes. The phase II conjugates N(2)-(3,8-dimethylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoxalin-2-yl-sulfamic acid (MeIQx-N(2)-SO(3)H) and N(2)-(beta-1-glucosiduronyl)-2-amino-3,8-dimethylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoxaline (MeIQx-N(2)-Gl), as well as the 7-oxo derivatives of MeIQx and N-desmethyl-MeIQx, 2-amino-3,8-dimethyl-6-hydro-7H-imidazo[4,5-f]quinoxalin-7-one (7-oxo-MeIQx), and 2-amino-6-hydro-8-methyl-7H-imidazo[4,5-f]quinoxalin-7-one (N-desmethyl-7-oxo-MeIQx) were also identified. A novel CYP1A2-derived metabolite was characterized as 2-amino-3-methylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoxaline-8-carboxylic acid (IQx-8-COOH) and was the predominant metabolite formed in human hepatocytes exposed to MeIQx at levels approaching human exposure. Unlike human hepatocytes, rat cell preparations, even following pretreatment with the potent CYP1A1/CYP1A2 inducer 3-methylcholanthrene (3-MC) did not produce IQx-8-COOH but did catalyze the formation of 2-amino-3,8-dimethyl-5-hydroxyimidazo[4,5-f]quinoxaline (5-HO-MeIQx) as a major CYP-mediated detoxication product. In the case of PhIP, direct glucuronidation of the N(2) and N(3) positions also occurred in human and rat hepatocytes. Glucuronide and sulfate conjugates of 2-amino-4'-hydroxy-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine (4'-HO-PhIP) were detected as relatively minor metabolites in human hepatocytes but were the major products formed in rat hepatocytes, accounting for up to 50% of the metabolism. Rat CYP1A2, but not the human ortholog, significantly contributes to 4'-hydroxylation of PhIP. Important differences exist between human and rat liver enzymes in catalytic activity and regioselectivity of MeIQx and PhIP metabolism. Some human hepatocyte preparations are more active at transforming MeIQx and PhIP to a genotoxic species than rat hepatocytes pretreated with potent inducer 3-MC. These pronounced interspecies differences in metabolism of MeIQx and PhIP may affect the biological activity of these mutagens and must be considered when assessing human health risk.