Down-regulation of detoxification genes, notably cytochrome P450 (CYPs), in primary hepatocyte cultures is a long-standing and major concern. We evaluated the influence of medium flow in this model. Hepatocytes isolated from 12 different liver donors were cultured either in a multichamber modular bioreactor (MCmB, flow rate 250-500 μL/min) or under standard/static conditions, and the expression of 32 genes, enzyme activities and biological parameters were measured 7-21 days later. mRNA expression of genes involved in xenobiotic/drug metabolism and transport, including CYP1A1, 1A2, 2B6, 2C9, 3A4 (and activities for some of them), UDP-glucuronosyltransferase (UGT) 1A1, UGT2B4, UGT2B7, glutathione S-transferase (GSTα), and multidrug resistance protein 1 (MDR1) and MRP2, were specifically up-regulated by medium flow as compared with static controls in all cultures tested. In 2-week-old cultures, expression of detoxification genes reached levels close to or higher than those measured in freshly isolated hepatocytes. In contrast, CYP2D6 and most of other tested genes were not affected by medium flow. We conclude that medium flow specifically interferes with, and up-regulates, the activity of xenosensors and/or the expression of detoxification genes in primary human hepatocytes. Down-regulation of detoxification genes in conventional (static) cultures is therefore partly a consequence of the absence of medium circulation.
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