Direct oxidation and covalent binding of isoniazid to rodent liver and human hepatic microsomes: humans are more like mice than rats

Chem Res Toxicol. 2012 Nov 19;25(11):2567-76. doi: 10.1021/tx300341r. Epub 2012 Oct 16.


Isoniazid (INH) is associated with serious liver injury and autoimmunity. Classic studies in rats indicated that a reactive metabolite of acetylhydrazine is responsible for the covalent binding and toxicity of INH. Studies in rabbits suggested that hydrazine might be the toxic species. However, these models involved acute toxicity with high doses of INH, and INH-induced liver injury in humans has very different features than such animal models. In this study, we demonstrated that a reactive metabolite of INH itself can covalently bind in the liver of mice and also to human liver microsomes. Covalent binding also occurred in rats, but it was much less than that in mice. We were able to trap the reactive metabolite of INH with N-α-acetyl-l-lysine in incubations with human liver microsomes. This suggests that the reactive intermediate of INH that leads to covalent binding is a diazohydroxide rather than a radical or carbocation because those reactive metabolites would be too reactive to trap in this way. Treatment of mice or rats with INH for up to 5 weeks did not produce severe liver injury. The alanine transaminase assay (ALT) is inhibited by INH, and other assays such as glutamate and sorbitol dehydrogenase (SDH) were better biomarkers of INH-induced liver injury. High doses of INH (200 and 400 mg/kg/day) for one week produced steatosis in rats and an increase in SDH, which suggests that it can cause mitochondrial injury. However, steatosis was not observed when INH was given at lower doses for longer periods of time to either mice or rats. We propose that covalent binding of the parent drug can contribute to INH-induced hepatotoxicity and autoimmunity. We also propose that these are immune-mediated reactions, and there are clinical data to support these hypotheses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Humans
  • Isoniazid / chemistry
  • Isoniazid / metabolism
  • Isoniazid / pharmacology*
  • Liver / drug effects*
  • Liver / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microsomes, Liver / drug effects*
  • Microsomes, Liver / pathology
  • Molecular Structure
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred BN
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Isoniazid