Over the last decade HepaRG cells have emerged as a promising alternative to primary human hepatocytes (PHH) and have been featured in over 300 research publications. Most of these reports employed freshly differentiated HepaRG cells that require time-consuming culture (∼28 days) for full differentiation. Recently, a cryopreserved, predifferentiated format of HepaRG cells (termed here "cryo-HepaRG") has emerged as a new model that improves global availability and experimental flexibility; however, it is largely unknown whether HepaRG cells in this format fully retain their hepatic characteristics. Therefore, we systematically investigated the hepatocyte functionality of cryo-HepaRG cultures in context with the range of interindividual variation observed with PHH in both sandwich-culture and suspension formats. These evaluations uncovered a novel adaptation period for the cryo-HepaRG format and demonstrated the impact of extracellular matrix on cryo-HepaRG functionality. Pharmacologically important drug-metabolizing alleles were genotyped in HepaRG cells and poor metabolizer alleles for CYP2D6, CYP2C9, and CYP3A5 were identified and consistent with higher frequency alleles found in individuals of Caucasian decent. We observed liver enzyme inducibility with aryl hydrocarbon receptor, constitutive androstane receptor (CAR), and pregnane X receptor activators comparable to that of sandwich-cultured PHH. Finally, we show for the first time that cryo-HepaRG supports proper CAR cytosolic sequestration and translocation to hepatocyte nuclei in response to phenobarbital treatment. Taken together, these data reveal important considerations for the use of this cell model and demonstrate that cryo-HepaRG are suitable for metabolism and toxicology screening.
U.S. Government work not protected by U.S. copyright.