Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress-Induced Upregulation of STARD1 Promotes Acetaminophen-Induced Acute Liver Failure

Gastroenterology. 2019 Aug;157(2):552-568. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2019.04.023. Epub 2019 Apr 25.


Background & aims: Acetaminophen (APAP) overdose is a major cause of acute liver failure (ALF). Mitochondrial SH3BP5 (also called SAB) and phosphorylation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) mediate the hepatotoxic effects of APAP. We investigated the involvement of steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (STARD1), a mitochondrial cholesterol transporter, in this process and sensitization by valproic acid (VPA), which depletes glutathione and stimulates steroidogenesis.

Methods: Nonfasted C57BL/6J mice (control) and mice with liver-specific deletion of STARD1 (Stard1ΔHep), SAB (SabΔHep), or JNK1 and JNK2 (Jnk1+2ΔHep) were given VPA with or without APAP. Liver tissues were collected and analyzed by histology and immunohistochemistry and for APAP metabolism, endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, and mitochondrial function. Adult human hepatocytes were transplanted into Fah-/-/Rag2-/-/Il2rg-/-/NOD (FRGN) mice to create mice with humanized livers.

Results: Administration of VPA before administration of APAP increased the severity of liver damage in control mice. The combination of VPA and APAP increased expression of CYP2E1, formation of NAPQI-protein adducts, and depletion of glutathione from liver tissues of control mice, resulting in ER stress and the upregulation of STARD1. Livers from control mice given VPA and APAP accumulated cholesterol in the mitochondria and had sustained mitochondrial depletion of glutathione and mitochondrial dysfunction. Inhibition of ER stress, by administration of tauroursodeoxycholic acid to control mice, prevented upregulation of STARD1 in liver and protected the mice from hepatoxicity following administration of VPA and APAP. Administration of N-acetylcysteine to control mice prevented VPA- and APAP-induced ER stress and liver injury. Stard1ΔHep mice were resistant to induction of ALF by VPA and APAP, despite increased mitochondrial levels of glutathione and phosphorylated JNK; we made similar observations in fasted Stard1ΔHep mice given APAP alone. SabΔHep mice or Jnk1+2ΔHep mice did not develop ALF following administration of VPA and APAP. The ability of VPA to increase the severity of APAP-induced liver damage was observed in FRGN mice with humanized liver.

Conclusions: In studies of mice, we found that upregulation of STARD1 following ER stress mediates APAP hepatoxicity via SH3BP5 and phosphorylation of JNK1 and JNK2.

Keywords: APAP Toxicity; Lipid; Mouse Model; Signal Transduction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetaminophen / toxicity*
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury / etiology
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury / pathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Overdose / complications
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress / drug effects*
  • Hepatocytes / drug effects
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism
  • Hepatocytes / pathology*
  • Hepatocytes / transplantation
  • Humans
  • Lipogenesis / drug effects
  • Liver / cytology
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Phosphoproteins / genetics
  • Phosphoproteins / metabolism*
  • Steroids / metabolism
  • Transplantation Chimera
  • Up-Regulation
  • Valproic Acid / administration & dosage


  • Phosphoproteins
  • Steroids
  • steroidogenic acute regulatory protein
  • Acetaminophen
  • Valproic Acid