Pharmacological inhibition of MEK1/2 signaling disrupts bile acid metabolism through loss of Shp and enhanced Cyp7a1 expression

Cristy R C Verzijl, Ivo P van de Peppel, Roos E Eilers, Vincent W Bloks, Justina C Wolters, Martijn Koehorst, Niels J Kloosterhuis, Rick Havinga, Mathilde Jalving, Dicky Struik, Johan W Jonker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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The RAS-MAPK signaling pathway is one of the most frequently dysregulated pathways in human cancer. Small molecule inhibitors directed against this pathway have clinical activity in patients with various cancer types and can improve patient outcomes. However, the use of these drugs is associated with adverse effects, which can result in dose reduction or treatment interruption. A better molecular understanding of on-target, off-tumor effects may improve toxicity management. In the present study, we aimed to identify early initiating biological changes in the liver upon pharmacological inhibition of the RAS-MAPK signaling pathway. To this end, we tested the effect of MEK inhibitor PD0325901 using mice and human hepatocyte cell lines. Male C57BL/6 mice were treated with either vehicle or PD0325901 for six days, followed by transcriptome analysis of the liver and phenotypic characterization. Pharmacological MEK inhibition altered the expression of 423 genes, of which 78 were upregulated and 345 were downregulated. We identified Shp, a transcriptional repressor, and Cyp7a1, the rate-limiting enzyme in converting cholesterol to bile acids, as the top differentially expressed genes. PD0325901 treatment also affected other genes involved in bile acid regulation, which was associated with changes in the composition of plasma bile acids and composition and total levels of fecal bile acids and elevated predictive biomarkers of early liver toxicity. In conclusion, short-term pharmacological MEK inhibition results in profound changes in bile acid metabolism, which may explain some of the clinical adverse effects of pharmacological inhibition of the RAS-MAPK pathway, including gastrointestinal complications and hepatotoxicity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114270
Number of pages10
JournalBiomedicine & pharmacotherapy = Biomedecine & pharmacotherapie
Early online date19-Jan-2023
Publication statusPublished - Mar-2023

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