Although estrogen receptor (ER)α agonists, such as estradiol and ethinylestradiol (EE2), cause cholestasis in mice, they also reduce the degree of liver injury caused by hepatotoxicants as well as ischemia-reperfusion. The functional mechanisms of ERα have yet to be elucidated in drug-induced or chemical-induced liver injury. The present study investigated the effects of an ERα agonist, selective ER modulators (SERMs) and an ER antagonist on drug-induced and chemical-induced liver injuries caused by acetaminophen, bromobenzene, diclofenac, and thioacetamide (TA). We observed hepatoprotective effects of EE2, tamoxifen (TAM) and raloxifene pretreatment in female mice that were exposed to a variety of hepatotoxic compounds. In contrast, the ER antagonist did not show any hepatoprotective effects. DNA microarray analyses suggested that monocyte to macrophage differentiation-associated 2 (Mmd2) protein, which has an unknown function, is commonly increased by TAM and RAL pretreatment, but not by pretreatment with the ER antagonist. In ERα-knockout mice, the hepatoprotective effects of TAM and the increased expression of Mmd2 mRNA were not observed in TA-induced liver injury. To investigate the function of Mmd2, the expression level of Mmd2 mRNA was significantly knocked down to approximately 30% in mice by injection of siRNA for Mmd2 (siMmd2). Mmd2 knockdown resulted in a reduction of the protective effects of TAM on TA-induced liver injury in mice. This is the first report of the involvement of ERα in drug-induced or chemical-induced liver injury. Upregulation of Mmd2 protein in the liver was suggested as the mechanism of the hepatoprotective effects of EE2 and SERMs.
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