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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Treatment of mouse liver slices with cholestatic hepatotoxicants results in down-regulation of Fxr and its target genes

Ewa Szalowska*, Geert Stoopen, Maria J Groot, Peter JM Hendriksen and Ad ACM Peijnenburg

Author Affiliations

RIKILT - Institute of Food Safety, Wageningen UR, P.O. Box 230, 6700 AE Wageningen, the Netherlands

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BMC Medical Genomics 2013, 6:39  doi:10.1186/1755-8794-6-39

Published: 10 October 2013

Abstract

Background

Unexpected cholestasis substantially contributes to drug failure in clinical trials. Current models used for safety assessment in drug development do not accurately predict cholestasis in humans. Therefore, it is of relevance to develop new screening models that allow identifying drugs with cholestatic properties.

Methods

We employed mouse precision cut liver slices (PCLS), which were incubated 24 h with two model cholestatic compounds: cyclosporin A (CsA) and chlorpromazine (CPZ). Subsequently, transcriptome analysis using DNA microarrays and q-PCR were performed to identify relevant biological processes and biomarkers. Additionally, histology was carried out and levels of triglycerides (TG) and bile acids (BA) were measured. To verify the ex vivo mouse data, these were compared with publically available human data relevant for cholestasis.

Results

Whole genome gene expression analysis showed that CsA up-regulated pathways related to NF-κB, ER stress and inflammation. Both CsA and CPZ down-regulated processes related to extracellular matrix (ECM) remodelling, BA homeostasis, Fxr signalling, and energy metabolism. The differential expression of a number of characteristic genes (e.g. Abcg5, Abcg8, Klf15, and Baat) could be confirmed by q-PCR. Histology revealed that CsA but not CPZ induced “ballooning” of hepatocytes. No effects on TG and BA levels were observed after incubation of PCLS with CsA and CPZ. A substantial number of processes altered in CsA- and CPZ-treated mouse PCLS ex vivo was also found to be affected in liver biopsies of cholestatic patients.

Conclusion

The present study demonstrated that mouse PCLS can be used as a tool to identify mechanisms of action of cholestatic model compounds. The induction of general stress responses and down-regulated Fxr signalling could play a role in the development of drug induced cholestasis. Importantly, comparative data analysis showed that the ex vivo mouse findings are also relevant for human pathology. Moreover, this work provides a set of genes that are potentially useful to assess drugs for cholestatic properties.

Keywords:
Cholestasis; Precision cut liver slices; Alternatives for animal testing; Transcriptome; Fxr (Nr1h4); Biomarkers