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Mol Biosyst. 2010 Jul;6(7):1195-206. doi: 10.1039/b926287c. Epub 2010 Apr 1.

Cytokine-associated drug toxicity in human hepatocytes is associated with signaling network dysregulation.

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Department of Biological Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.


Idiosyncratic drug hepatotoxicity is a major problem in pharmaceutical development due to poor prediction capability of standard preclinical toxicity assessments and limited knowledge of its underlying mechanisms. Findings in animal models have shown that adverse effects of numerous drugs with idiosyncratic hepatotoxicity in humans can be reproduced in the presence of coincident inflammatory cytokine signaling. Following these observations, we have recently developed an in vitro drug/inflammatory cytokine co-treatment approach that can reproduce clinical drug hepatotoxicity signatures-particularly for idiosyncratic drugs-in cultured primary human hepatocytes. These observations have suggested that drug-induced stresses may interact with cytokine signaling to induce hepatic cytotoxicity, but the hepatocyte signaling mechanisms governing these interactions are poorly understood. Here, we collect high-throughput phosphoprotein signaling and cytotoxicity measurements in cultured hepatocytes, from multiple human donors, treated with combinations of hepatotoxic drugs (e.g. trovafloxacin, clarithromycin) and cytokines (tumor necrosis factor-alpha, interferon-gamma, interleukin-1 alpha, and interleukin-6). We demonstrate, through orthogonal partial least-squares regression (OPLSR) modeling of these signal-response data, that drug/cytokine hepatic cytotoxicity is integratively controlled by four key signaling pathways: Akt, p70 S6 kinase, MEK-ERK, and p38-HSP27. This modeling predicted, and experimental studies confirmed, that the MEK-ERK and p38-HSP27 pathways contribute pro-death signaling influences in drug/cytokine hepatic cytotoxicity synergy. Further, our four-pathway OPLSR model produced successful prediction of drug/cytokine hepatic cytotoxicities across different human donors, even though signaling and cytotoxicity responses were both highly donor-specific. Our findings highlight the critical role of kinase signaling in drug/cytokine hepatic cytotoxicity synergies and reveal that hepatic cytotoxicity responses are governed by multi-pathway signaling network balance.

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