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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2002 Nov;303(2):468-75.

Peroxynitrite is a critical mediator of acetaminophen hepatotoxicity in murine livers: protection by glutathione.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, 4301 W. Markham Street, Little Rock, AR 72205, USA.


Acetaminophen (AAP) overdose causes formation of nitrotyrosine, a footprint of peroxynitrite, in centrilobular hepatocytes. The importance of peroxynitrite for the pathophysiology, however, is unclear. C3Heb/FeJ mice were treated with 300 mg/kg AAP. To accelerate the restoration of hepatic glutathione (GSH) levels as potential endogenous scavengers of peroxynitrite, some groups of animals received 200 mg of GSH/kg i.v. at different time points after AAP. AAP induced severe liver cell damage at 6 h. Total liver and mitochondrial glutathione levels decreased by >90% at 1 h but recovered to 75 and 45%, respectively, of untreated values at 6 h after AAP. In addition, the hepatic and mitochondrial glutathione disulfide (GSSG) content was significantly increased over baseline, suggesting a mitochondrial oxidant stress. Moreover, centrilobular hepatocytes stained for nitrotyrosine. Treatment with GSH at t = 0 restored hepatic GSH levels and completely prevented the mitochondrial oxidant stress, peroxynitrite formation, and liver cell injury. In contrast, treatment at 1.5 and 2.25 h restored hepatic and mitochondrial GSH levels but did not prevent the increase in GSSG formation. Nitrotyrosine adduct formation and liver injury, however, was substantially reduced. GSH treatment at 3 h after AAP was ineffective. Similar results were obtained when these experiments were repeated with glutathione peroxidase-deficient animals. Our data suggest that early GSH treatment (t = 0) prevented cell injury by improving the detoxification of the reactive metabolite of AAP. Delayed GSH treatment enhanced hepatic GSH levels, which scavenged peroxynitrite in a spontaneous reaction. Thus, peroxynitrite is an important mediator of AAP-induced liver cell necrosis.

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