We discuss here a new approach to detecting hepatotoxicity by employing concentration changes of liver-specific blood proteins during disease progression. These proteins are capable of assessing the behaviors of their cognate liver biological networks for toxicity or disease perturbations. Blood biomarkers are highly desirable diagnostics as blood is easily accessible and baths virtually all organs. Fifteen liver-specific blood proteins were identified as markers of acetaminophen (APAP)-induced hepatotoxicity using three proteomic technologies: label-free antibody microarrays, quantitative immunoblotting, and targeted iTRAQ mass spectrometry. Liver-specific blood proteins produced a toxicity signature of eleven elevated and four attenuated blood protein levels. These blood protein perturbations begin to provide a systems view of key mechanistic features of APAP-induced liver injury relating to glutathione and S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe) depletion, mitochondrial dysfunction, and liver responses to the stress. Two markers, elevated membrane-bound catechol-O-methyltransferase (MB-COMT) and attenuated retinol binding protein 4 (RBP4), report hepatic injury significantly earlier than the current gold standard liver biomarker, alanine transaminase (ALT). These biomarkers were perturbed prior to onset of irreversible liver injury. Ideal markers should be applicable for both rodent model studies and human clinical trials. Five of these mouse liver-specific blood markers had human orthologs that were also found to be responsive to human hepatotoxicity. This panel of liver-specific proteins has the potential to effectively identify the early toxicity onset, the nature and extent of liver injury and report on some of the APAP-perturbed liver networks.
Keywords: BHMT.; COMT; CPS1; RBP4; biomarker; liver injury; toxicity.