High-Throughput Screening to Evaluate Inhibition of Bile Acid Transporters Using Human Hepatocytes Isolated From Chimeric Mice

Toxicol Sci. 2020 Feb 1;173(2):347-361. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfz229.


Cholestasis resulting from hepatic bile acid efflux transporter inhibition may contribute to drug-induced liver injury (DILI). This condition is a common safety-related reason for drug attrition and withdrawal. To screen for safety risks associated with efflux transport inhibition, we developed a high-throughput cellular assay for different drug discovery phases. Hepatocytes isolated from chimeric mice with humanized livers presented gene expression resembling that of the human liver and demonstrated apical membrane polarity when sandwiched between Matrigel and collagen. The fluorescent bile acid-derivative cholyl-l-lysyl-fluorescein (CLF) was used to quantify drug-induced efflux transport inhibition in hepatocytes. Cyclosporine inhibited CLF accumulation in the apical bile canalicular lumen in a concentration-dependent manner. The assay had equivalent predictive power to a primary human hepatocyte-based assay and greater predictive power than an assay performed with rat hepatocytes. Predictive power was tested using 45 pharmaceutical compounds, and 91.3% of the compounds with cholestatic potential (21/23) had margins (IC50/Cmax) < 20. In contrast, 90.9% (20/22) of compounds without cholestatic potential had IC50/Cmax>20. Assay sensitivity and specificity were 91.3% and 90.9%, respectively. We suggest that this improved assay performance could result from higher expression of efflux transporters, metabolic pathways, and/or species differences. Given the long-term supply of cells from the same donor, the humanized mouse-derived hepatocyte-based CLF efflux assay could be a valuable tool for predicting cholestatic DILI.

Keywords: bile acid transporter; cholyl-l-lysyl-fluorescein; drug hepatotoxicity; human hepatocyte.

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 11 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Animals
  • Bile Acids and Salts / metabolism*
  • Bile Canaliculi / metabolism
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury / genetics
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury / metabolism*
  • Cyclosporine / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression
  • Hepatocytes / cytology
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism*
  • Hepatocytes / physiology
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays / methods*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic


  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 11
  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Cyclosporine