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Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2006 Sep;99(3):213-24.

Involvement of the multidrug resistance P-glycoprotein in acetaminophen-induced toxicity in hepatoma-derived HepG2 and Hep3B cells.

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Paediatric Research and Electron Microscopy Unit, Ruth and Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel.


Acetaminophen overdose causes severe hepatic failure. Although the mechanisms of acetaminophen hepatotoxicity have been well investigated, little is known about the involvement of the P-glycoprotein in acetaminophen transport and toxicity. P-Glycoprotein is a membrane efflux pump, playing a significant role in regulating absorption, excretion, and tissue distribution of many drugs. To evaluate the contribution of P-glycoprotein transporter in the course of acetaminophen-induced toxicity, HepG2 and Hep3B cells with different P-glycoprotein expression and activity, were treated by acetaminophen (1-10 mM) for different time periods, with or without the P-glycoprotein inhibitor verapamil. P-Glycoprotein activity was determined by rhodamine 123 efflux assay and western blot analysis. To assess the acetaminophen-induced toxicity and effect of verapamil, we investigated cellular redox status, phosphatidylserine externalization, nuclear fragmentation and ultrastructural changes. Verapamil markedly enhanced acetaminophen-induced oxidative damage and cell death. Moreover, verapamil revealed acetaminophen toxicity even at subtoxic levels. High acetaminophen concentrations increased P-glycoprotein activity and content in both HepG2 and Hep3B cells. These observations suggest the involvement of P-glycoprotein in acetaminophen transport. Notwithstanding the differences of the investigated hepatoma cell lines in P-glycoprotein function, acetaminophen-induced toxicity was similar, possibly due to different functions of drug-metabolizing systems. We conclude that acetaminophen is a P-glycoprotein substrate and P-glycoprotein is involved in acetaminophen transport and toxicity in HepG2 and Hep3B cells. This study establishes the fact that acetaminophen can modulate P-glycoprotein in tumour cells, suggesting that its routine use in cancer patients in combination with anticancer drugs, may influence the result of chemotherapy.

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