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PLoS One. 2014 Dec 3;9(12):e114085. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0114085. eCollection 2014.

Whole genome transcript profiling of drug induced steatosis in rats reveals a gene signature predictive of outcome.

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Centre for Pharmacology and Toxicology, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany.


Drug induced steatosis (DIS) is characterised by excess triglyceride accumulation in the form of lipid droplets (LD) in liver cells. To explore mechanisms underlying DIS we interrogated the publically available microarray data from the Japanese Toxicogenomics Project (TGP) to study comprehensively whole genome gene expression changes in the liver of treated rats. For this purpose a total of 17 and 12 drugs which are diverse in molecular structure and mode of action were considered based on their ability to cause either steatosis or phospholipidosis, respectively, while 7 drugs served as negative controls. In our efforts we focused on 200 genes which are considered to be mechanistically relevant in the process of lipid droplet biogenesis in hepatocytes as recently published (Sahini and Borlak, 2014). Based on mechanistic considerations we identified 19 genes which displayed dose dependent responses while 10 genes showed time dependency. Importantly, the present study defined 9 genes (ANGPTL4, FABP7, FADS1, FGF21, GOT1, LDLR, GK, STAT3, and PKLR) as signature genes to predict DIS. Moreover, cross tabulation revealed 9 genes to be regulated ≥10 times amongst the various conditions and included genes linked to glucose metabolism, lipid transport and lipogenesis as well as signalling events. Additionally, a comparison between drugs causing phospholipidosis and/or steatosis revealed 26 genes to be regulated in common including 4 signature genes to predict DIS (PKLR, GK, FABP7 and FADS1). Furthermore, a comparison between in vivo single dose (3, 6, 9 and 24 h) and findings from rat hepatocyte studies (2 h, 8 h, 24 h) identified 10 genes which are regulated in common and contained 2 DIS signature genes (FABP7, FGF21). Altogether, our studies provide comprehensive information on mechanistically linked gene expression changes of a range of drugs causing steatosis and phospholipidosis and encourage the screening of DIS signature genes at the preclinical stage.

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