The past decade has seen an increase in the development and clinical use of biomarkers associated with histological features of liver disease. Here, we conduct a comparative histological and global proteomics analysis to identify coregulated modules of proteins in the progression of hepatic steatosis or fibrosis. We orally administered the reference chemicals bromobenzene (BB) or 4,4'-methylenedianiline (4,4'-MDA) to male Sprague-Dawley rats for either 1 single administration or 5 consecutive daily doses. Livers were preserved for histopathology and global proteomics assessment. Analysis of liver sections confirmed a dose- and time-dependent increase in frequency and severity of histopathological features indicative of lipid accumulation after BB or fibrosis after 4,4'-MDA. BB administration resulted in a dose-dependent increase in the frequency and severity of inflammation and vacuolation. 4,4'-MDA administration resulted in a dose-dependent increase in the frequency and severity of periportal collagen accumulation and inflammation. Pathway analysis identified a time-dependent enrichment of biological processes associated with steatogenic or fibrogenic initiating events, cellular functions, and toxicological states. Differentially expressed protein modules were consistent with the observed histology, placing physiologically linked protein networks into context of the disease process. This study demonstrates the potential for protein modules to provide mechanistic links between initiating events and histopathological outcomes.
Keywords: bioinformatics; biomarkers; hepatic; histopathology; mechanisms of toxicity; proteomics; toxicity.