Species-differential toxic effects have been described with PPARα and PPARγ agonists between rodent and human liver. PPARα agonists (fibrates) are potent hypocholesterolemic agents in humans while they induce peroxisome proliferation and tumors in rodent liver. By contrast, PPARγ agonists (glitazones) and even dual PPARα/γ agonists (glitazars) have caused idiosyncratic hepatic and nonhepatic toxicities in human without evidence of any damage in rodent during preclinical studies. The mechanisms involved in such differences remain largely unknown. Several studies have identified the major target genes of PPARα agonists in rodent liver while no comprehensive analysis has been performed on gene expression changes induced by PPARγ and dual PPARα/γ agonists. Here, we investigated transcriptomes of rat hepatocytes after 24h treatment with two PPARγ (troglitazone and rosiglitazone) and two PPARα/γ (muraglitazar and tesaglitazar) agonists. Although, hierarchical clustering revealed a gene expression profile characteristic of each PPAR agonist class, only a limited number of genes was specifically deregulated by glitazars. Functional analyses showed that many genes known as PPARα targets were also modulated by both PPARγ and PPARα/γ agonists and quantitative differences in gene expression profiles were observed between these two classes. Moreover, most major genes modulated in rat hepatocytes were also found to be deregulated in rat liver after tesaglitazar treatment. Taken altogether, these results support the conclusion that differential toxic effects of PPARα and PPARγ agonists in rodent liver do not result from transcriptional deregulation of major PPAR target genes but rather from qualitative and/or quantitative differential responses of a small subset of genes.
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