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Toxicol In Vitro. 2012 Dec;26(8):1278-85. doi: 10.1016/j.tiv.2012.05.008. Epub 2012 May 27.

Optimization of the HepaRG cell model for drug metabolism and toxicity studies.

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Inserm UMR 991, Rennes, France.


The HepaRG cell line is the first human cell line able to differentiate in vitro into mature hepatocyte-like cells. Our main objective within the framework of the EEC-LIINTOP project was to optimize the use of this cell line for drug metabolism and toxicity studies, especially after repeat treatments. The main results showed that differentiated HepaRG cells: (i) retained their drug metabolism capacity (major CYPs, phase 2 enzymes, transporters and nuclear receptors) and responsiveness to prototypical inducers at relatively stable levels for several weeks at confluence. The levels of several functions, including some CYPs such as CYP3A4, were dependent on the addition of dimethyl sulfoxide in the culture medium; (ii) sustained the different types of chemical-induced hepatotoxicity, including steatosis, phospholipidosis and cholestasis, after acute and/or repeat treatment with reference drugs. In particular, drug-induced vesicular steatosis was demonstrated in vitro for the first time. In conclusion, our results from the LIINTOP project, together with other studies reported concomitantly or more recently in the literature, support the conclusion that the metabolically competent human HepaRG cells represent a surrogate to primary human hepatocytes for investigating drug metabolism parameters and both acute and chronic effects of xenobiotics in human liver.

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