Assessing Chemical-Induced Liver Injury In Vivo From In Vitro Gene Expression Data in the Rat: The Case of Thioacetamide Toxicity

Front Genet. 2019 Nov 26;10:1233. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2019.01233. eCollection 2019.


Consumers are exposed to thousands of chemicals with potentially adverse health effects. However, these chemicals will never be tested for toxicity because of the immense resources needed for animal-based (in vivo) toxicological studies. Today, there are no viable in vitro alternatives to these types of animal studies. To develop an in vitro approach, we investigated whether we could predict in vivo organ injuries in rats with the use of RNA-seq data acquired from tissues early in the development of toxicant-induced injury, by comparing gene expression data from RNA isolated from these rat tissues with those obtained from in vitro exposure of primary liver and kidney cells. We collected RNA-seq data from the liver and kidney tissues of Sprague-Dawley rats 8 or 24 h after exposing them to vehicle (control), low (25 mg/kg), or high (100 mg/kg) doses of thioacetamide, a known liver toxicant that promotes fibrosis; we used these doses and exposure times to cause only mild toxicant-induced injury. For the in vitro study, we treated two cell types from Sprague-Dawley rats, primary hepatocytes (vehicle; low, 0.025 mM; or high, 0.125 mM dose), and renal tube epithelial cells (vehicle; low, 0.125 mM; or high, 0.500 mM) dose) with the thioacetamide metabolite, thioacetamide-S-oxide, selecting in vitro doses and exposure times to recreate the early-stage toxicant-induced injury model that we achieved in vivo. RNA-seq data were collected 9 or 24 h after application of vehicle or thioacetamide-S-oxide. We found that our modular approach for the analysis of gene expression data derived from in vivo RNA-seq strongly correlated (R2 > 0.6) with the in vitro results at two different dose levels of thioacetamide/thioacetamide-S-oxide after 24 h of exposure. The top-ranked liver injury modules in vitro correctly identified the ensuing development of liver fibrosis.

Keywords: RNA-seq; fibrosis; in vitro-in vivo correlations; predictive toxicology; thioacetamide; toxicogenomics.