Xenobiotic-metabolizing enzyme and transporter gene expression in primary cultures of human hepatocytes modulated by ToxCast chemicals

J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2010 Feb;13(2-4):329-46. doi: 10.1080/10937404.2010.483949.


Primary human hepatocyte cultures are useful in vitro model systems of human liver because when cultured under appropriate conditions the hepatocytes retain liver-like functionality such as metabolism, transport, and cell signaling. This model system was used to characterize the concentration- and time-response of the 320 ToxCast chemicals for changes in expression of genes regulated by nuclear receptors. Fourteen gene targets were monitored in quantitative nuclease protection assays: six representative cytochromes P-450, four hepatic transporters, three Phase II conjugating enzymes, and one endogenous metabolism gene involved in cholesterol synthesis. These gene targets are sentinels of five major signaling pathways: AhR, CAR, PXR, FXR, and PPARalpha. Besides gene expression, the relative potency and efficacy for these chemicals to modulate cellular health and enzymatic activity were assessed. Results demonstrated that the culture system was an effective model of chemical-induced responses by prototypical inducers such as phenobarbital and rifampicin. Gene expression results identified various ToxCast chemicals that were potent or efficacious inducers of one or more of the 14 genes, and by inference the 5 nuclear receptor signaling pathways. Significant relative risk associations with rodent in vivo chronic toxicity effects are reported for the five major receptor pathways. These gene expression data are being incorporated into the larger ToxCast predictive modeling effort.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Cell Shape / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cholesterol / biosynthesis
  • Environmental Pollutants / chemistry
  • Environmental Pollutants / metabolism
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects*
  • Hepatocytes / cytology
  • Hepatocytes / drug effects*
  • Hepatocytes / enzymology
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Biological*
  • Rats
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Xenobiotics / chemistry
  • Xenobiotics / metabolism
  • Xenobiotics / toxicity*


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Xenobiotics
  • Cholesterol