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Toxicological Sciences

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The kidney is an important site of xenobiotic-induced toxicity. Because the traditional markers of renal injury indicate only severe renal damage, new biomarkers are needed for a more sensitive and reliable evaluation of renal toxicity. This study was designed to identify in vitro noninvasive biomarkers for efficient assessment of nephrotoxicity by using cisplatin as a model of nephrotoxic compounds. To this end, a comparative proteomic analysis of conditioned media from HK-2 human kidney epithelial cells treated with cisplatin was performed. Here, we identified pyruvate kinase M1/M2 isoform M2 (PKM2) and eukaryotic translation elongation factor 1 gamma (EF-1) as potential biomarker candidates for evaluation of nephrotoxicity. PKM2 and EF-1 were increased by cisplatin in a kidney cell-specific manner, most likely due to cisplatin-induced apoptosis. The increase of PKM2 and EF-1 levels in conditioned media was also observed in the presence of other nephrotoxic agents with different cytotoxic mechanisms such as CdCl2, HgCl2, and cyclosporine A. Rats treated with cisplatin, CdCl2, or HgCl2 presented increased levels of PKM2 and EF-1 in the urine and kidney tissue. Taken together, this study identified two noninvasive biomarker candidates, PKM2 and EF-1, by comparative proteomic analysis. These new biomarkers may offer an alternative to traditional renal markers for efficient evaluation of nephrotoxicity.


The nuclear receptors CAR (constitutive androstane receptor) and possibly PXR (pregnane X receptor) mediate the hepatic effects of phenobarbital (PB) and similar-acting compounds. Although PB is a potent nongenotoxic tumor promoter in rodent liver, epidemiological data from epilepsy patients treated with phenobarbital do not show a specific role of PB in human liver cancer risk. That points to species differences in the susceptibility to tumor promotion by PB, which might be attributed to divergent functions of the PB receptors CAR and PXR in mice and humans. In the present study, male transgenic mice expressing human CAR and PXR were used to detect possible differences between wild-type (WT) and humanized mice in their response to CAR activation in a tumor initiation/promotion experiment with a single injection of the tumor initiator N-nitrosodiethylamine preceding chronic PB treatment for 10 months. Analysis of liver tumor burden revealed that PB strongly promoted the outgrowth of hepatocellular adenoma driven by activated β-catenin in WT mice, whereas the tumor-promoting effect of PB was much less pronounced in the humanized group. In conclusion, the present findings demonstrate that human CAR and PXR support tumor promotion by PB in mouse liver, but to a significantly lesser extent than the WT murine receptors.


Acrolein is a major reactive component of vehicle exhaust, and cigarette and wood smoke. It is also present in several food substances and is generated endogenously during inflammation and lipid peroxidation. Although previous studies have shown that dietary or inhalation exposure to acrolein results in endothelial activation, platelet activation, and accelerated atherogenesis, the basis for these effects is unknown. Moreover, the effects of acrolein on microRNA (miRNA) have not been studied. Using AGILENT miRNA microarray high-throughput technology, we found that treatment of cultured human umbilical vein endothelial cells with acrolein led to a significant (>1.5-fold) upregulation of 12, and downregulation of 15, miRNAs. Among the miRNAs upregulated were members of the let-7 family and this upregulation was associated with decreased expression of their protein targets, β3 integrin, Cdc34, and K-Ras. Exposure to acrolein attenuated β3 integrin-dependent migration and reduced Akt phosphorylation in response to insulin. These effects of acrolein on endothelial cell migration and insulin signaling were reversed by expression of a let-7a inhibitor. Also, inhalation exposure of mice to acrolein (1 ppm x 6 h/day x 4 days) upregulated let-7a and led to a decrease in insulin-stimulated Akt phosphorylation in the aorta. These results suggest that acrolein exposure has broad effects on endothelial miRNA repertoire and that attenuation of endothelial cell migration and insulin signaling by acrolein is mediated in part by the upregulation of let-7a. This mechanism may be a significant feature of vascular injury caused by inflammation, oxidized lipids, and exposure to environmental pollutants.


Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are persistent environmental toxicants, present in 100% of U.S. adults and dose-dependently associated with obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). PCBs are predicted to interact with receptors previously implicated in xenobiotic/energy metabolism and NAFLD. These receptors include the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), pregnane xenobiotic receptor (PXR), constitutive androstane receptor (CAR), peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs), liver-X-receptor (LXRα), and farnesoid-X-receptor (FXR). This study evaluates Aroclor 1260, a PCB mixture with congener composition mimicking that of human adipose tissue, and selected congeners, as potential ligands for these receptors utilizing human hepatoma-derived (HepG2) and primate-derived (COS-1) cell lines, and primary human hepatocytes. Aroclor 1260 (20 μg/ml) activated AhR, and PCB 126, a minor component, was a potent inducer. Aroclor 1260 activated PXR in a simple concentration-dependent manner at concentrations ≥10 μg/ml. Among the congeners tested, PCBs 138, 149, 151, 174, 183, 187, and 196 activated PXR. Aroclor 1260 activated CAR2 and CAR3 variants at lower concentrations and antagonize CAR2 activation by the CAR agonist, CITCO, at higher concentrations (≥20 μg/ml). Additionally, Aroclor 1260 induced CYP2B6 in primary hepatocytes. At subtoxic doses, Aroclor 1260 did not activate LXR or FXR and had no effect on LXR- or FXR-dependent induction by the agonists T0901317 or GW4064, respectively. Aroclor 1260 (20 μg/ml) suppressed PPARα activation by the agonist nafenopin, although none of the congeners tested demonstrated significant inhibition. The results suggest that Aroclor 1260 is a human AhR, PXR and CAR3 agonist, a mixed agonist/antagonist for CAR2, and an antagonist for human PPARα.


The National Toxicology Program study of Ginkgo biloba extract (GBE), a herbal supplement, reported concerns regarding genotoxicity and clear evidence of hepatocarcinogenicity and liver hypertrophy in mice. To clarify the genotoxicity of GBE in vivo, we performed reporter gene mutation assay using gpt delta mice. We also used a combined liver comet assay and bone marrow micronucleus assay using C3H-derived constitutive androstane receptor knockout (CARKO) and wild-type mice. No remarkable increases in gpt or Spi mutation frequencies were observed in DNA extracted from the livers of gpt delta mice that had been exposed to GBE up to 2000 mg/kg bw/day. In the comet and micronucleus assays, no statistically significant increases in positive cells were observed at doses up to 2000 mg/kg bw/day of GBE in either mouse genotype. The present study provides clear evidence that GBE is not genotoxic in vivo. Our results indicate that GBE-induced hepatocarcinogenesis in mice occurs through a non-genotoxic mode of action.


Cisplatin is a cytostatic agent used in the treatment of many types of cancer, but its use is associated with increased incidences of secondary leukemia. We evaluated cisplatin's in vivo genotoxic potential by analyzing peripheral blood for Pig-a mutant phenotype erythrocytes and for chromosomal damage in the form of micronuclei. Mutant phenotype reticuloyte and erythrocyte frequencies, based on anti-CD59 antibody labeling and flow cytometric analysis, were determined in male Sprague Dawley rats treated for 28 consecutive days (days 1–28) with up to 0.4 mg cisplatin/kg/day, and sampled on days –4, 15, 29, and 56. Vehicle and highest dose groups were evaluated at additional time points post-treatment up to 6 months. Day 4 and 29 blood samples were also analyzed for micronucleated reticulocyte frequency using flow cytometry and anti-CD71-based labeling. Mutant phenotype reticulocytes were significantly elevated at doses ≥0.1 mg/kg/day, and mutant phenotype erythrocytes were elevated at doses ≥0.05 mg/kg/day. In the 0.4 mg/kg/day group, these effects persisted for the 6 month observation period. Cisplatin also induced a modest but statistically significant increase in micronucleus frequency at the highest dose tested. The prolonged persistence in the production of mutant erythrocytes following cisplatin exposure suggests that this drug mutates hematopoietic stem cells and that this damage may ultimately contribute to the increased incidence of secondary leukemias seen in patients cured of primary malignancies with platinum-based regimens.


This aim of this study was to explore the role of miRNA-146a (miR-146a) and its target genes in endothelial cells. We demonstrated that lipopolysaccharide (LPS) induced the upregulation of miR-146a in human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs), and that the induction was blocked by silencing toll-like receptors, the adaptor molecule MyD88, and the nonspecific NF-B inhibitor BAY 11-7082. In addition, knockdown of miR-146a by transfection of the locked nucleic acid antimiR-146a significantly inhibited LPS-induced cell migration and tube formation. A combined analysis of bioinformatics miRanda algorithms and a whole genome expression microarray of immunoprecipitated Ago2 ribonucleoprotein complexes identified 14 potential target genes. Subsequent transfection with the miR-146a precursor pre-miR-146a into HUVECs validated that CARD10 was the target gene of the miR-146a, both at the mRNA and protein levels. Silencing CARD10 inhibited p65 nuclear translocation in the cells receiving LPS stimulation and increased angiogenesis. Therefore, miR-146a may play a role in regulating the angiogenesis in HUVECs by downregulating CARD10, which acts in a negative feedback regulation loop to inhibit the activation of NF-B that normally impairs angiogenesis.


Diisocyanates (dNCOs) are potent chemical allergens utilized in various industries. It has been proposed that skin exposure to dNCOs produces immune sensitization leading to work-related asthma and allergic disease. We examined dNCOs sensitization by using a dermal murine model of toluene diisocyanate (TDI) exposure to characterize the disposition of TDI in the skin, identify the predominant haptenated proteins, and discern the associated antigen uptake by dendritic cells. Ears of BALB/c mice were dosed once with TDI (0.1% or 4% v/v acetone). Ears and draining lymph nodes (DLNs) were excised at selected time points between 1 h and 15 days post-exposure and were processed for histological, immunohistochemical, and proteomic analyses. Monoclonal antibodies specific for TDI-haptenated protein (TDI-hp) and antibodies to various cell markers were utilized with confocal microscopy to determine co-localization patterns. Histopathological changes were observed following exposure in ear tissue of mice dosed with 4% TDI/acetone. Immunohistochemical staining demonstrated TDI-hp localization in the stratum corneum, hair follicles, and sebaceous glands. TDI-hp were co-localized with CD11b+ (integrin αM/Mac-1), CD207+ (langerin), and CD103+ (integrin αE) cells in the hair follicles and in sebaceous glands. TDI-hp were also identified in the DLN 1 h post-exposure. Cytoskeletal and cuticular keratins along with mouse serum albumin were identified as major haptenated species in the skin. The results of this study demonstrate that the stratum corneum, hair follicles, and associated sebaceous glands in mice are dendritic cell accessible reservoirs for TDI-hp and thus identify a mechanism for immune recognition following epicutaneous exposure to TDI.


The rapid pharmacodynamic response of cells to toxic xenobiotics is primarily coordinated by signal transduction networks, which follow a simple framework: the phosphorylation/dephosphorylation cycle mediated by kinases and phosphatases. However, the time course from initial pharmacodynamic response(s) to cell death following exposure can have a vast range. Viewing this time lag between early signaling events and the ultimate cellular response as an opportunity, we hypothesize that monitoring the phosphorylation of proteins related to cell death and survival pathways at key, early time points may be used to forecast a cell's eventual fate, provided that we can measure and accurately interpret the protein responses. In this paper, we focused on a three-phased approach to forecast cell death after exposure: (1) determine time points relevant to important signaling events (protein phosphorylation) by using estimations of adenosine triphosphate production to reflect the relationship between mitochondrial-driven energy metabolism and kinase response, (2) experimentally determine phosphorylation values for proteins related to cell death and/or survival pathways at these significant time points, and (3) use cluster analysis to predict the dose-response relationship between cellular exposure to a xenobiotic and plasma membrane degradation at 24 h post-exposure. To test this approach, we exposed HepG2 cells to two disparate treatments: a GSK-3β inhibitor and a MEK inhibitor. After using our three-phased approach, we were able to accurately forecast the 24 h HepG2 plasma membrane degradation dose-response from protein phosphorylation values as early as 20 min post-MEK inhibitor exposure and 40 min post-GSK-3β exposure.


The obesogen hypothesis states that together with an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended, exposure to environmental compounds early in life or throughout lifetime might have an influence on obesity development. In this work, we propose a new approach for obesogen screening, i.e., the use of transcriptomics in the 3T3-L1 pre-adipocyte cell line. Based on the data from a previous study of our group using a lipid accumulation based adipocyte differentiation assay, several human-relevant obesogenic compounds were selected: reference obesogens (Rosiglitazone, Tributyltin), test obesogens (Butylbenzyl phthalate, butylparaben, propylparaben, Bisphenol A), and non-obesogens (Ethylene Brassylate, Bis (2-ethylhexyl)phthalate). The high stability and reproducibility of the 3T3-L1 gene transcription patterns over different experiments and cell batches is demonstrated by this study. Obesogens and non-obesogen gene transcription profiles were clearly distinguished using hierarchical clustering. Furthermore, a gradual distinction corresponding to differences in induction of lipid accumulation could be made between test and reference obesogens based on transcription patterns, indicating the potential use of this strategy for classification of obesogens. Marker genes that are able to distinguish between non, test, and reference obesogens were identified. Well-known genes involved in adipocyte differentiation as well as genes with unknown functions were selected, implying a potential adipocyte-related function of the latter. Cell-physiological lipid accumulation was well estimated based on transcription levels of the marker genes, indicating the biological relevance of omics data. In conclusion, this study shows the high relevance and reproducibility of this 3T3-L1 based in vitro toxicogenomics tool for classification of obesogens and biomarker discovery. Although the results presented here are promising, further confirmation of the predictive value of the set of candidate biomarkers identified as well as the validation of their clinical role will be needed.


Maternal Bisphenol A (BPA) diet triggers anxiety in rodents, but the underlying mechanism is still unclear. Accumulating epidemiological and experimental data have demonstrated that the anxiety is associated with aberrant neuroimmune response. In this study, we found that maternal BPA diet (MBD) exacerbated anxiety-like behavior in female juvenile mice, and the molecular evidence further showed that this behavioral phenotype was connected to the neuroimmune activation, such as elevated tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and interleukin (IL)-6 levels in prefrontal cortex (PFC) rather than in peripheral blood, which indicated that neuroimmune response might be ascribed to neuroglial activation because activated neuroglia cells could secrete proinflammatory cytokines. Subsequently, we found that ionized calcium-binding adapter molecule (Iba)-1 as a selective marker for microglia and glial fibrillary acidic protein as a specific marker for astrocyte were significantly increased at transcriptional and translational levels, which confirmed the neuroglial activation in this model. Therefore, we conclude that MBD induces excessive anxiety-like behavior in female juvenile with elevated TNF-α and IL-6 levels, as well as activated microglia and astrocyte in PFC. Herein caution must be taken to prevent potential risks from MBD becuase exacerbated anxiety-like behavior in female juvenile by MBD may be a critical contribution for subsequent growth or mental disorders.


The developing central nervous system may be particularly sensitive to bisphenol A (BPA)-induced alterations. Here, pregnant Sprague Dawley rats (n = 11–12/group) were gavaged daily with vehicle, 2.5 or 25.0 μg/kg BPA, or 5.0 or 10.0 μg/kg ethinyl estradiol (EE2) on gestational days 6–21. The BPA doses were selected to be below the no-observed-adverse-effect level (NOAEL) of 5 mg/kg/day. On postnatal days 1–21, all offspring/litter were orally treated with the same dose. A naïve control group was not gavaged. Body weight, pubertal age, estrous cyclicity, and adult serum hormone levels were measured. Adolescent play, running wheel activity, flavored solution intake, female sex behavior, and manually elicited lordosis were assessed. No significant differences existed between the vehicle and naïve control groups. Vehicle controls exhibited significant sexual dimorphism for most behaviors, indicating these evaluations were sensitive to sex differences. However, only EE2 treatment caused significant effects. Relative to female controls, EE2-treated females were heavier, exhibited delayed vaginal opening, aberrant estrous cyclicity, increased play behavior, decreased running wheel activity, and increased aggression toward the stimulus male during sexual behavior assessments. Relative to male controls, EE2-treated males were older at testes descent and preputial separation and had lower testosterone levels. These results suggest EE2-induced masculinization/defeminization of females and are consistent with increased volume of the sexually dimorphic nucleus of the preoptic area (SDN-POA) at weaning in female siblings of these subjects (He, Z., Paule, M. G. and Ferguson, S. A. (2012) Low oral doses of bisphenol A increase volume of the sexually dimorphic nucleus of the preoptic area in male, but not female, rats at postnatal day 21. Neurotoxicol. Teratol. 34, 331–337). Although EE2 treatment caused pubertal delays and decreased testosterone levels in males, their behaviors were within the range of control males. Conversely, BPA treatment did not alter any measured endpoint. Similar to our previous reports (Ferguson, S. A., Law, C. D. Jr and Abshire, J. S. (2011) Developmental treatment with bisphenol A or ethinyl estradiol causes few alterations on early preweaning measures. Toxicol. Sci. 124, 149–160; Ferguson, S. A., Law, C. D. and Abshire, J. S. (2012) Developmental treatment with bisphenol A causes few alterations on measures of postweaning activity and learning. Neurotoxicol. Teratol. 34, 598–606), the BPA doses and design used here produced few alterations.


Cadmium (Cd) is a toxic heavy metal that may cause neurological disorders. We studied the mechanism underlying Cd-mediated cell death in neuronal cells. In Cd-induced neurotoxicity, caspase-3 was only modestly activated, and accordingly, zVAD-fmk, a pan-caspase inhibitor, partially attenuated cell death. However, pretreatment with Necrox-2 or Necrox-5, two novel necrosis inhibitors, suppressed cell death more markedly compared with pretreatment with zVAD-fmk. Moreover, the necrosis inhibitors did not prevent cleavage of caspase-3. These results indicate that caspase-independent necrosis is more prevalent in Cd-induced neurotoxicity. Bcl-2 and adenovirus E1B-19 kDa-interacting protein 3 (BNIP3) has been reported to be related to caspase-independent cell death. Cd treatment caused a dramatic upregulation of BNIP3 mRNA and protein levels in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, knockdown of BNIP3 greatly inhibited Cd-induced cell death. Importantly, BNIP3 RNAi decreased lactate dehydrogenase release and the percentage of propidium iodide-positive cells, two markers of necrotic cell death due to rupture of the cell membrane, whereas it had no effect on activation of caspase-3 in Cd-treated cells. These data suggest that BNIP3 mediates caspase-independent necrosis, but not apoptosis. Moreover, our results indicate that induction of BNIP3 by Cd may not be related to HIF-1 which is generally regarded as a mediator responsible for BNIP3 expression. Finally, we show that mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) are activated by Cd in vitro and in vivo; ERK and JNK promote BNIP3 upregulation and subsequent necrosis. Taken together, our results suggest BNIP3, upregulated by activation of ERK and JNK, mediates Cd-induced necrosis in neuronal cells.


This study was designed to develop and validate a short-term in vivo protocol termed the Fetal Phthalate Screen (FPS) to detect phthalate esters (PEs) and other chemicals that disrupt fetal testosterone synthesis and testis gene expression in rats. We propose that the FPS can be used to screen chemicals that produce adverse developmental outcomes via disruption of the androgen synthesis pathway more rapidly and efficiently, and with fewer animals than a postnatal one-generation study. Pregnant rats were dosed from gestational day (GD) 14 to 18 at one dose level with one of 27 chemicals including PEs, PE alternatives, pesticides known to inhibit steroidogenesis, an estrogen and a potent PPARα agonist and ex vivo testis testosterone production (T Prod) was measured on GD 18. We also included some chemicals with "unknown" activity including DMEP, DHeP, DHEH, DPHCH, DAP, TOTM, tetrabromo-diethyl hexyl phthalate (BrDEHP), and a relatively potent environmental estrogen BPAF. Dose-response studies also were conducted with this protocol with 11 of the above chemicals to determine their relative potencies. CD-1 mice also were exposed to varying dose levels of DPeP from GD 13 to 17 to determine if DPeP reduced T Prod in this species since there is a discrepancy among the results of in utero studies of PEs in mice. Compared to the known male reproductive effects of the PEs in rats the FPS correctly identified all known "positives" and "negatives" tested. Seven of eight "unknowns" tested were "negatives", they did not reduce T Prod, whereas DAP produced an "equivocal" response. Finally, a dose-response study with DPeP in CD-1 mice revealed that fetal T Prod can be inhibited by exposure to a PE in utero in this species, but at a higher dose level than required in rats.Key words. Phthalate Syndrome, Fetal endocrine biomarkers, Phthalate adverse outcome pathway, testosterone production, fetal rat testis.


Methylmercury (MeHg) is a ubiquitous and persistent neurotoxin that poses a risk to human health. Although the mechanisms of MeHg toxicity are not fully understood, factors that contribute to susceptibility are even less well known. Studies of human gene polymorphisms have identified a potential role for the multidrug resistance-like protein (MRP/ABCC) family, ATP-dependent transporters, in MeHg susceptibility. MRP transporters have been shown to be important for MeHg excretion in adult mouse models, but their role in moderating MeHg toxicity during development has not been explored. We therefore investigated effects of manipulating expression levels of MRP using a Drosophila development assay. Drosophila MRP (dMRP) is homologous to human MRP1–4 (ABCC1–4), sharing 50% identity and 67% similarity with MRP1. A greater susceptibility to MeHg is seen in dMRP mutant flies, demonstrated by reduced rates of eclosion on MeHg-containing food. Furthermore, targeted knockdown of dMRP expression using GAL4>UAS RNAi methods demonstrates a tissue-specific function for dMRP in gut, Malpighian tubules, and the nervous system in moderating developmental susceptibility to MeHg. Using X-ray synchrotron fluorescence imaging, these same tissues were also identified as the highest Hg-accumulating tissues in fly larvae. Moreover, higher levels of Hg are seen in dMRP mutant larvae compared with a control strain fed an equivalent dose of MeHg. In sum, these data demonstrate that dMRP expression, both globally and within Hg-targeted organs, has a profound effect on susceptibility to MeHg in developing flies. Our findings point to a potentially novel and specific role for dMRP in neurons in the protection against MeHg. Finally, this experimental system provides a tractable model to evaluate human polymorphic variants of MRP and other gene variants relevant to genetic studies of mercury-exposed populations.


Inhalation of waterproofing spray products has on several occasions caused lung damage, which in some cases was fatal. The present study aims to elucidate the mechanism of action of a nanofilm spray product, which has been shown to possess unusual toxic effects, including an extremely steep concentration-effect curve. The nanofilm product is intended for application on non-absorbing flooring materials and contains perfluorosiloxane as the active film-forming component. The toxicological effects and their underlying mechanisms of this product were studied using a mouse inhalation model, by in vitro techniques and by identification of the binding interaction. Inhalation of the aerosolized product gave rise to increased airway resistance in the mice, as evident from the decreased expiratory flow rate. The toxic effect of the waterproofing spray product included interaction with the pulmonary surfactants. More specifically, the active film-forming components in the spray product, perfluorinated siloxanes, inhibited the function of the lung surfactant due to non-covalent interaction with surfactant protein B, a component which is crucial for the stability and persistence of the lung surfactant film during respiration. The active film-forming component used in the present spray product is also found in several other products on the market. Hence, it may be expected that these products may have a toxicity similar to the waterproofing product studied here. Elucidation of the toxicological mechanism and identification of toxicological targets are important to perform rational and cost-effective toxicological studies. Thus, because the pulmonary surfactant system appears to be an important toxicological target for waterproofing spray products, study of surfactant inhibition could be included in toxicological assessment of this group of consumer products.


Human stem cell derived cardiomyocytes (hESC-CM) provide a potential model for development of improved assays for pre-clinical predictive drug safety screening. We have used multi-electrode array (MEA) analysis of hESC-CM to generate multi-parameter data to profile drug impact on cardiomyocyte electrophysiology using a panel of 21 compounds active against key cardiac ion channels. Our study is the first to apply multi-parameter phenotypic profiling and clustering techniques commonly used for high-content imaging and microarray data to the analysis of electrophysiology data obtained by MEA analysis. Our data show good correlations with previous studies in stem cell derived cardiomyocytes and demonstrate improved specificity in compound risk assignment over convention single-parametric approaches. These analyses indicate great potential for multi-parameter MEA data acquired from hESC-CM to enable drug electrophysiological liabilities to be assessed in pre-clinical cardiotoxicity assays, facilitating informed decision making and liability management at the optimum point in drug development.


The transcription factor Nrf2 protects against a number of experimental pathologies, and is a promising therapeutic target. The clinical investigation of a potent Nrf2-inducing agent, the triterpenoid (TP) bardoxolone methyl (BARD), was recently halted due to adverse cardiovascular events in chronic kidney disease patients, although the underlying mechanisms are yet to be resolved. The majority of small molecule Nrf2 inducers are electrophilic and trigger Nrf2 accumulation via the chemical modification of its redox-sensitive repressor Keap1. Therefore, it is pertinent to question whether the therapeutic targeting of Nrf2 could be hindered in many cases by the inherent reactivity of a small molecule inducer toward unintended cellular targets, a key mechanism of drug toxicity. Using H4IIE-ARE8L hepatoma cells, we have examined the relationship between (a) Nrf2 induction potency, (b) toxicity and (c) in vitro therapeutic index (ratio of b:a) for BARD and a number of other small molecule activators of Nrf2. We show that BARD exhibits the highest potency toward Nrf2 and the largest in vitro therapeutic index among compounds that have been investigated clinically (namely BARD, sulforaphane and dimethylfumarate). Through further examination of structurally related TPs, we demonstrate that an increase in potency toward Nrf2 is associated with a relatively smaller increase in toxicity, indicating that medicinal chemistry can be used to enhance the specificity of a compound as an inducer of Nrf2 signaling whilst simultaneously increasing its therapeutic index. These findings will inform the continuing design and development of drugs targeting Nrf2.


RG7652 is a human IgG1 monoclonal antibody designed to inhibit proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) binding to hepatic low density lipoprotein receptor (LDL-r), thereby blocking PCSK9-mediated degradation of LDL-r. This therapeutic candidate is under development for the prevention of cardiovascular mortality and morbidity in dyslipidemic patients. The primary objective of this study was to evaluate the potential immunotoxicological effects of RG7652 when given to cynomolgus monkeys either alone or in combination with a daily oral dose of atorvastatin. Administration of RG7652 via subcutaneous injection every other week for 12 weeks (a total of seven doses), daily oral doses of atorvastatin (total of 85 doses), and combinations of each up to 15 and 20 mg/kg/dose, respectively, were well tolerated and there was no evidence of alteration in immune function. Administration of pharmacologically relevant doses of RG7652 in combination with atorvastatin to healthy monkeys does not result in clinically meaningful immunosuppression as measured by T-cell dependent antibody responses, natural killer cell activity, immunophenotype, or delayed type hypersensitivity. The only pharmacologically mediated changes observed during the dosing period were the anticipated changes in circulating cholesterol.


Isoniazid (INH), the mainstay therapeutic for tuberculosis infection, has been associated with rare but serious hepatotoxicity in the clinic. However, the mechanisms underlying inter-individual variability in the response to this drug have remained elusive. A genetically diverse mouse population model in combination with a systems biology approach was utilized to identify transcriptional changes, INH-responsive metabolites, and gene variants that contribute to the liver response in genetically sensitive individuals. Sensitive mouse strains developed severe microvesicular steatosis compared with corresponding vehicle control mice following 3 days of oral treatment with INH. Genes involved in mitochondrial dysfunction were enriched among liver transcripts altered with INH treatment. Those associated with INH treatment and susceptibility to INH-induced steatosis in the liver included apolipoprotein A-IV, lysosomal-associated membrane protein 1, and choline phosphotransferase 1. These alterations were accompanied by metabolomic changes including reduced levels of glutathione and the choline metabolites betaine and phosphocholine, suggesting that oxidative stress and reduced lipid export may additionally contribute to INH-induced steatosis. Finally, genome-wide association mapping revealed that polymorphisms in perilipin 2 were linked to increased triglyceride levels following INH treatment, implicating a role for inter-individual differences in lipid packaging in the susceptibility to INH-induced steatosis. Taken together, our data suggest that INH-induced steatosis is caused by not one, but multiple events involving lipid retention in the livers of genetically sensitive individuals. This work also highlights the value of using a mouse diversity panel to investigate drug-induced responses across a diverse population.