Customised in vitro model to detect human metabolism-dependent idiosyncratic drug-induced liver injury

Arch Toxicol. 2018 Jan;92(1):383-399. doi: 10.1007/s00204-017-2036-4. Epub 2017 Jul 31.


Drug-induced liver injury (DILI) has a considerable impact on human health and is a major challenge in drug safety assessments. DILI is a frequent cause of liver injury and a leading reason for post-approval drug regulatory actions. Considerable variations in the expression levels of both cytochrome P450 (CYP) and conjugating enzymes have been described in humans, which could be responsible for increased susceptibility to DILI in some individuals. We herein explored the feasibility of the combined use of HepG2 cells co-transduced with multiple adenoviruses that encode drug-metabolising enzymes, and a high-content screening assay to evaluate metabolism-dependent drug toxicity and to identify metabolic phenotypes with increased susceptibility to DILI. To this end, HepG2 cells with different expression levels of specific drug-metabolism enzymes (CYP1A2, CYP2B6, CYP2C9, CYP2C19, CYP2D6, CYP2E1, CYP3A4, GSTM1 and UGT2B7) were exposed to nine drugs with reported hepatotoxicity. A panel of pre-lethal mechanistic parameters (mitochondrial superoxide production, mitochondrial membrane potential, ROS production, intracellular calcium concentration, apoptotic nuclei) was used. Significant differences were observed according to the level of expression and/or the combination of several drug-metabolism enzymes in the cells created ad hoc according to the enzymes implicated in drug toxicity. Additionally, the main mechanisms implicated in the toxicity of the compounds were also determined showing also differences between the different types of cells employed. This screening tool allowed to mimic the variability in drug metabolism in the population and showed a highly efficient system for predicting human DILI, identifying the metabolic phenotypes associated with increased DILI risk, and indicating the mechanisms implicated in their toxicity.

Keywords: CYP; Cell model; Drug-induced liver injury; Hepatotoxicity mechanisms; Idiosyncrasy.

MeSH terms

  • Adenoviridae / genetics
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury / etiology*
  • Cytochrome P450 Family 2 / genetics*
  • Cytochrome P450 Family 2 / metabolism
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / methods*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic / drug effects
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays / methods
  • Humans
  • Inactivation, Metabolic / genetics
  • Membrane Potential, Mitochondrial / drug effects
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Toxicity Tests / methods*


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Cytochrome P450 Family 2