Drug-induced cholestasis risk assessment in sandwich-cultured human hepatocytes

Toxicol In Vitro. 2016 Aug;34:179-186. doi: 10.1016/j.tiv.2016.03.008. Epub 2016 Apr 2.


Drug-induced cholestasis (DIC) is recognized as one of the prime mechanisms for DILI. Hence, earlier detection of drug candidates with cholestatic signature is crucial. Recently, we introduced an in vitro model for DIC and evaluated its performance with several cholestatic drugs. We presently expand on the validation of this model by 14 training compounds (TCs) of the EU-EFPIA IMI project MIP-DILI. Several batches of human hepatocytes in sandwich-culture were qualified for DIC assessment by verifying the bile acid-dependent increase in sensitivity to the toxic effects of cyclosporin A. The cholestatic potential of the TCs was expressed by determining the drug-induced cholestasis index (DICI). A safety margin (SM) was calculated as the ratio of the lowest TC concentration with a DICI≤0.80 to the Cmax,total. Nefazodone, bosentan, perhexiline and troglitazone were flagged for cholestasis (SM<30). The hepatotoxic (but non-cholestatic) compounds, amiodarone, diclofenac, fialuridine and ximelagatran, and all non-hepatotoxic compounds were cleared as "safe" for DIC. Tolcapone and paracetamol yielded DICI-based SM values equal to or higher than those based on cytotoxicity, thus excluding DIC as a DILI mechanism. This hepatocyte-based in vitro assay provides a unique tool for early and reliable identification of drug candidates with cholestasis risk.

Keywords: Bile acids; Drug-induced cholestasis; Hepatotoxicity; In vitro model; MIP-DILI set of training compounds; Sandwich-cultured human hepatocytes.

MeSH terms

  • Bile Acids and Salts / pharmacology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury
  • Cholestasis / chemically induced*
  • Cyclosporine / toxicity*
  • Hepatocytes / drug effects*
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Urea / metabolism


  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Cyclosporine
  • Urea