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Front Pharmacol. 2017 Jun 14;8:367. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2017.00367. eCollection 2017.

Hepatocellular Toxicity Associated with Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors: Mitochondrial Damage and Inhibition of Glycolysis.

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Division of Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology, University Hospital BaselBasel, Switzerland.
Department of Biomedicine, University of BaselBasel, Switzerland.
Swiss Centre of Applied Human ToxicologyBasel, Switzerland.


Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) are anticancer drugs with a lesser toxicity than classical chemotherapeutic agents but still with a narrow therapeutic window. While hepatotoxicity is known for most TKIs, underlying mechanisms remain mostly unclear. We therefore aimed at investigating mechanisms of hepatotoxicity for imatinib, sunitinib, lapatinib and erlotinib in vitro. We treated HepG2 cells, HepaRG cells and mouse liver mitochondria with TKIs (concentrations 1-100 μM) for different periods of time and assessed toxicity. In HepG2 cells maintained with glucose (favoring glycolysis), all TKIs showed a time- and concentration-dependent cytotoxicity and, except erlotinib, a drop in intracellular ATP. In the presence of galactose (favoring mitochondrial metabolism), imatinib, sunitinib and erlotinib showed a similar toxicity profile as for glucose whereas lapatinib was less toxic. For imatinib, lapatinib and sunitinib, cytotoxicity increased in HepaRG cells induced with rifampicin, suggesting formation of toxic metabolites. In contrast, erlotinib was more toxic in HepaRG cells under basal than CYP-induced conditions. Imatinib, sunitinib and lapatinib reduced the mitochondrial membrane potential in HepG2 cells and in mouse liver mitochondria. In HepG2 cells, these compounds increased reactive oxygen species production, impaired glycolysis, and induced apoptosis. In addition, imatinib and sunitinib impaired oxygen consumption and activities of complex I and III (only imatinib), and reduced the cellular GSH pool. In conclusion, imatinib and sunitinib are mitochondrial toxicants after acute and long-term exposure and inhibit glycolysis. Lapatinib affected mitochondria only weakly and inhibited glycolysis, whereas the cytotoxicity of erlotinib could not be explained by a mitochondrial mechanism.


ROS; apoptosis; glycolysis; hepatotoxicity; mitochondrial toxicity; tyrosine kinase inhibitor

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