Pre-treatment twice with liposomal clodronate protects against acetaminophen hepatotoxicity through a pre-conditioning effect

Liver Res. 2020 Sep;4(3):145-152. doi: 10.1016/j.livres.2020.07.002. Epub 2020 Jul 29.


Background and aim: Acetaminophen (APAP) overdose is a major cause of acute liver injury, but the role of macrophages in propagation of the hepatotoxicity is controversial. Early research revealed that macrophage inhibitors protect against APAP injury. However, later work demonstrated that macrophage ablation by acute pre-treatment with liposomal clodronate (LC) exacerbates the toxicity. To our surprise, during other studies, we observed that pre-treatment twice with LC seemed to protect against APAP hepatotoxicity, in contrast to acute pre-treatment. The aim of this study was to confirm that observation and to explore the mechanisms.

Methods: We treated mice with empty liposomes (LE) or LC twice per week for 1 week before APAP overdose and collected blood and liver tissue at 0, 2, and 6 h post-APAP. We then measured liver injury (serum ALT activity, histology), APAP bioactivation (total glutathione, APAP-protein adducts), oxidative stress (oxidized glutathione [GSSG]), glutamate cysteine-ligase subunit c (Gclc) mRNA, and nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor (Nrf2) immunofluorescence. We also confirmed ablation of macrophages by F4/80 immunohistochemistry.

Results: Pre-treatment twice with LC dramatically reduced F4/80 staining, protected against liver injury, and reduced oxidative stress at 6 h post-APAP, without affecting APAP bioactivation. Importantly, Gclc mRNA was higher in the LC group at 0 h and total glutathione was higher at 2 h, indicating accelerated glutathione re-synthesis after APAP overdose due to greater basal glutamate-cysteine ligase. Oxidative stress was lower in the LC groups at both time points. Finally, total Nrf2 immunofluorescence was higher in the LC group.

Conclusions: We conclude that multiple pre-treatments with LC protect against APAP by accelerating glutathione re-synthesis through glutamate-cysteine ligase. Investigators using two or possibly more LC pre-treatments to deplete macrophages, including peritoneal macrophages, should be aware of this possible confounder.

Keywords: Acute liver failure; Kupffer cells; Nrf2; damage-associated molecular patterns; drug-induced liver injury; sterile inflammation; stress response.