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Pharmacokinetics of the neurotoxin n-hexane in rat and man


The pharmacokinetics of inhaled n-hexane in rat and man were compared. In the rat metabolism was saturable. Up to 300 ppm, the metabolic rate was directly proportional to the concentration in the atmosphere, reaching 47 μmol/(h· kg). Only 17% of n-hexane was exhaled unchanged. Above 300 ppm, the amount of n-hexane in the body rose with increasing atmospheric concentrations from 1.6 up to a limiting value of 9.6, which corresponded to the thermodynamic distribution coefficient of n-hexane between the organism and the atmosphere. Up to 3000 ppm, the rate of metabolism increased to 245 μmol/ (h· kg); only a slow further increase was found up to 7000 ppm (285μmol/(h· kg)).

In man the steady-state concentrations of n-hexane were about 1 ppm. The metabolic clearance was 1321/h, and n-hexane accumulated to a factor of 2.3 in the organism. The thermodynamic distribution coefficient was calculated to be 12. Twenty per cent of n-hexane in the body was exhaled unchanged.

At low concentrations the rate of metabolism of n-hexane is limited in both species by transport to the enzyme system. Under these conditions the rate of metabolism of n-hexane should not be influenced by xenobiotics which induce the n-hexane metabolizing enzyme system.

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Correspondence to H. M. Bolt.

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Dedicated to Professor Dr. med. Herbert Remmer on the occasion of his 65th birthday

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Filser, J.G., Peter, H., Bolt, H.M. et al. Pharmacokinetics of the neurotoxin n-hexane in rat and man. Arch Toxicol 60, 77–80 (1987).

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Key words

  • n-Hexane
  • Pharmacokinetics
  • Man
  • Rat