Background: Chronic consumption of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac may induce drug-induced liver injury (DILI). The mechanism of diclofenac-induced liver injury is partially elucidated and involves mitochondrial damage. Elevated cAMP protects hepatocytes against bile acid-induced injury. However, it is unknown whether cAMP protects against DILI and, if so, which downstream targets of cAMP are implicated in the protective mechanism including the classical protein kinase A (PKA) pathway or alternative pathways like the exchange protein directly activated by cAMP (EPAC). Aim: Investigate whether cAMP and/or its downstream targets protect against diclofenac-induced injury in hepatocytes. Methods: Rat hepatocytes were exposed to 400 µmol/L diclofenac. Apoptosis and necrosis were measured by caspase-3 activity assay and Sytox green staining respectively. Mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP) was measured by JC-10 staining. mRNA and protein expression were assessed by qPCR and Western blot, respectively. The cAMP-elevating agent forskolin, the pan-phosphodiesterase inhibitor IBMX and EPAC inhibitors CE3F4 and ESI-O5 were used to assess the role of cAMP and its effectors, PKA or EPAC. Results: Diclofenac exposure induced apoptotic cell death and loss of MMP in hepatocytes. Both forskolin and IBMX prevented diclofenac-induced apoptosis. EPAC inhibition, but not PKA inhibition abolished the protective effect of forskolin and IBMX. Forskolin and IBMX preserved the MMP while both EPAC inhibitors diminished this effect. Both EPAC1 and EPAC2 were expressed in hepatocytes and localized in mitochondria. Conclusion: cAMP elevation protects hepatocytes against diclofenac-induced cell death, a process primarily involving EPACs. The cAMP/EPAC pathway may be a novel target for treatment of DILI. Significance Statement Our study shows two main highlights. First, elevated cAMP levels protect against diclofenac-induced apoptosis in primary hepatocytes via maintenance of mitochondrial integrity. In addition, we propose the existence of mitochondrial cAMP-EPAC microdomains in rat hepatocytes, opening new avenues for targeted therapy in DILI. Both EPAC1 and EPAC2, but not PKA, are responsible for this protective effect. Our findings present cAMP-EPAC as a potential target for the treatment of drug-induced liver injury (DILI) and liver injury involving mitochondrial dysfunction.
- INDUCED LIVER-INJURY
- MITOCHONDRIAL TOXICITY