Metabolomics analysis of the toxicity pathways of triphenyl phosphate in HepaRG cells and comparison to oxidative stress mechanisms caused by acetaminophen

Toxicol In Vitro. 2015 Dec;29(8):2045-54. doi: 10.1016/j.tiv.2015.08.012. Epub 2015 Aug 28.


Since the publication of REACH guidelines, the need for in vitro tools for toxicity testing has increased. We present here the development of a hepatotoxicity testing tool using human HepaRG cell cultures and metabolomics. HepaRG cells were exposed to either 4mM acetaminophen (APAP) as reference toxicant for oxidative stress or 50 μM triphenyl phosphate (TPHP) as toxicant with unknown toxicity pathways (TPs). After 72 h exposure, cells were subjected to quenching and liquid-liquid extraction which resulted in a polar and an apolar fraction. Analysis of fractions was performed by ultrahigh performance liquid chromatography-high resolution tandem mass spectrometry (UHPLC-QTOF-MS). Significantly up or down regulated metabolites were selected by univariate statistics prior to identification. In order to obtain robust and specific TP biomarkers, the experiment was also repeated using a different culture medium composition to assess which metabolites show consistent changes. Potential biomarkers belonging to different TPs were found for APAP and TPHP. For APAP, the biomarkers were related to a decrease in unsaturated phospholipids, and for TPHP to an accumulation of phosphoglycerolipids and increase of palmitoyl lysophosphatidylcholine. This first proof-of-concept opens new perspectives for the analysis of other (reference) toxicants with different TPs and it can be used to expand the in vitro tool for hepatotoxicity screening of various compounds.

Keywords: Acetaminophen; Biomarker; HepaRG; Hepatotoxicity; Metabolomics; Triphenyl phosphate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetaminophen / toxicity*
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / toxicity
  • Biomarkers
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Metabolomics / methods*
  • Organophosphates / toxicity*
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Plasticizers / toxicity


  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic
  • Biomarkers
  • Organophosphates
  • Plasticizers
  • Acetaminophen
  • triphenyl phosphate