In vivo assessment of drug-induced hepatotoxicity using Xenopus embryos

Katy Saide, Grant N Wheeler

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Failure to predict drug-induced toxicity reactions is a major problem contributing to a high attrition rate and tremendous cost in drug development. Drug screening in X. laevis embryos is high-throughput relative to screening in rodents, potentially making them ideal for this use. Xenopus embryos have been used as a toxicity model in the frog embryo teratogenesis assay on Xenopus (FETAX) for the early stages of drug safety evaluation. We previously developed compound-screening methods using Xenopus embryos and believe they could be used for in vitro drug-induced toxicity safety assessment before expensive preclinical trials in mammals. Specifically, Xenopus embryos could help predict drug-induced hepatotoxicity and consequently aid lead candidate prioritization. Here we present methods, which we have modified for use on Xenopus embryos, to help measure the potential for a drug to induce liver toxicity. One such method examines the release of the liver-specific microRNA (miRNA) miR-122 from the liver into the vasculature as a result of hepatocellular damage, which could be due to drug-induced acute liver injury. Paracetamol, a known hepatotoxin at high doses, can be used as a positive control. We previously showed that some of the phenotypes of mammalian paracetamol overdose are reflected in Xenopus embryos. Consequently, we have also included here a method that measures the concentration of free glutathione (GSH), which is an indicator of paracetamol-induced liver injury. These methods can be used as part of a panel of protocols to help predict the hepatoxicity of a drug at an early stage in drug development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)470-477
Number of pages8
JournalCold Spring Harbor Protocols
Early online date13 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020

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