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Zucker Lean Rats With Hepatic Steatosis Recapitulate Asymptomatic Metabolic Syndrome and Exhibit Greater Sensitivity to Drug-Induced Liver Injury Compared With Standard Nonclinical Sprague-Dawley Rat Model

Authors: Timothy P. LaBranche, Anna K. Kopec, Srinivasa R. Mantena, Brett D. Hollingshead, Andrew W. Harrington, Zachary S. Stewart, Yutian Zhan, Kyle D. Hayes, Laurence O. Whiteley, Andrew D. Burdick, John W. Davis, II

Online: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0192623320968716

Issue: Toxicol Pathol. 2020 Dec;48(8):994-1007


Fatty liver disease is a potential risk factor for drug-induced liver injury (DILI). Despite advances in nonclinical in vitro and in vivo models to assess liver injury during drug development, the pharmaceutical industry is still plagued by idiosyncratic DILI. Here, we tested the hypothesis that certain features of asymptomatic metabolic syndrome (namely hepatic steatosis) increase the risk for DILI in certain phenotypes of the human population. Comparison of the Zucker Lean (ZL) and Zucker Fatty rats fed a high fat diet (HFD) revealed that HFD-fed ZL rats developed mild hepatic steatosis with compensatory hyperinsulinemia without increases in liver enzymes. We then challenged steatotic HFD-fed ZL rats and Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats fed normal chow, a nonclinical model widely used in the pharmaceutical industry, with acetaminophen overdose to induce liver injury. Observations in HFD-fed ZL rats included increased liver injury enzymes and greater incidence and severity of hepatic necrosis compared with similarly treated SD rats. The HFD-fed ZL rats also had disproportionately higher hepatic drug accumulation, which was linked with abnormal hepatocellular efflux transporter distribution. Here, we identify ZL rats with HFD-induced hepatic steatosis as a more sensitive nonclinical in vivo test system for modeling DILI compared with SD rats fed normal chow. Keywords: DILI; Zucker rat; drug transporter; liver; steatosis; susceptible population.