Paraoxonase 1 (PON1) is a serum enzyme closely associated with high density lipoprotein (HDL). PON1 hydrolyzes several organophosphorus compounds used as insecticides, as well as nerve agents; it metabolizes toxic oxidized lipids associated with both low density lipoprotein (LDL) and HDL; and it can hydrolyze a number of lactone-containing pharmaceutical compounds, inactivating some, while activating others. Serum PON1 activity in a given population can vary by 40-fold. Though most of this variation can be explained by polymorphisms in the coding region (Q192R) and the 5' regulatory region (T-108C), modulation of PON1 by a variety of other factors should be taken into account, including other polymorphisms recently discovered but not yet characterized. This paper examines the major factors (environmental chemicals, drugs, smoking, alcohol, diet, age, disease conditions) that have been shown to modulate PON1 activity in either direction. As PON1 plays a protective role in organophosphate toxicity, and, because of its antioxidant capacity, in cardiovascular disease, a better understanding of how PON1 can be modulated by environmental factors has potential toxicological and clinical consequences
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