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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 1995 Jun;273(3):1497-505.

Cytotoxicity of acetaminophen in human cytochrome P4502E1-transfected HepG2 cells.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, City University of New York, USA.


Acetaminophen (APAP) when administered in excess can cause severe hepatic necrosis in vivo. To study the mechanism of APAP toxicity and the role of cytochrome P450, a previously established human hepatoma HepG2 subline, MVh2E1-9, that constitutively expresses human CYP2E1 was used as a model. At high concentrations (above 5 mM) and when intracellular reduced glutathione (GSH) was depleted, APAP caused severe cytotoxicity in MVh2E1-9, but not in MV-5 cells which lack CYP2E1. The APAP cytotoxicity was dependent on the concentration of APAP and time of exposure, and could be blocked by 4-methylpyrazole, ethanol, diallyl sulfide, N-acetylcysteine and N-t-butyl-alpha-phenylnitrone, but not by propylgallate, an inhibitor of lipid peroxidation. Significantly more 14C-labeled APAP protein adduct was detected in MVh2E1-9 cells than MV-5 cells, especially after depletion of GSH. The formation of the APAP adducts could be inhibited by the same agents which prevent APAP cytotoxicity. At a lower concentration (1-2 mM), APAP inhibited proliferation in both MVh2E1-9 and the control MV-5 cells to similar extents. This antiproliferative action of APAP did not require depletion of GSH as did the cytotoxic action of APAP. These data suggest that APAP has a dual toxic effect on MVh2E1-9 cells: a P450-independent antiproliferative effect and the CYP2E1-dependent cytotoxic effect. These results demonstrate the ability of human CYP2E1 to activate APAP to reactive metabolites which form covalent protein adducts and cause toxicity to a hepatoma cell line.

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