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Chem Res Toxicol. 2009 Apr;22(4):699-707. doi: 10.1021/tx800464q.

Serum metabolomics reveals irreversible inhibition of fatty acid beta-oxidation through the suppression of PPARalpha activation as a contributing mechanism of acetaminophen-induced hepatotoxicity.

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Laboratory of Metabolism, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Metabolic bioactivation, glutathione depletion, and covalent binding are the early hallmark events after acetaminophen (APAP) overdose. However, the subsequent metabolic consequences contributing to APAP-induced hepatic necrosis and apoptosis have not been fully elucidated. In this study, serum metabolomes of control and APAP-treated wild-type and Cyp2e1-null mice were examined by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) and multivariate data analysis. A dose-response study showed that the accumulation of long-chain acylcarnitines in serum contributes to the separation of wild-type mice undergoing APAP-induced hepatotoxicity from other mouse groups in a multivariate model. This observation, in conjunction with the increase of triglycerides and free fatty acids in the serum of APAP-treated wild-type mice, suggested that APAP treatment can disrupt fatty acid beta-oxidation. A time-course study further indicated that both wild-type and Cyp2e1-null mice had their serum acylcarnitine levels markedly elevated within the early hours of APAP treatment. While remaining high in wild-type mice, serum acylcarnitine levels gradually returned to normal in Cyp2e1-null mice at the end of the 24 h treatment. Distinct from serum aminotransferase activity and hepatic glutathione levels, the pattern of serum acylcarnitine accumulation suggested that acylcarnitines can function as complementary biomarkers for monitoring the APAP-induced hepatotoxicity. An essential role for peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (PPARalpha) in the regulation of serum acylcarnitine levels was established by comparing the metabolomic responses of wild-type and Ppara-null mice to a fasting challenge. The upregulation of PPARalpha activity following APAP treatment was transient in wild-type mice but was much more prolonged in Cyp2e1-null mice. Overall, serum metabolomics of APAP-induced hepatotoxicity revealed that the CYP2E1-mediated metabolic activation and oxidative stress following APAP treatment can cause irreversible inhibition of fatty acid oxidation, potentially through suppression of PPARalpha-regulated pathways.

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