Drug-induced liver injury (DILI) is the leading cause of acute liver failure. Currently, no adequate predictive biomarkers for DILI are available. This study describes a translational approach using proteomic profiling for the identification of urinary proteins related to acute liver injury induced by acetaminophen (APAP). Mice were given a single intraperitoneal dose of APAP (0-350 mg/kg bw) followed by 24 h urine collection. Doses of ≥275 mg/kg bw APAP resulted in hepatic centrilobular necrosis and significantly elevated plasma alanine aminotransferase (ALT) values (p<0.0001). Proteomic profiling resulted in the identification of 12 differentially excreted proteins in urine of mice with acute liver injury (p<0.001), including superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1), carbonic anhydrase 3 (CA3) and calmodulin (CaM), as novel biomarkers for APAP-induced liver injury. Urinary levels of SOD1 and CA3 increased with rising plasma ALT levels, but urinary CaM was already present in mice treated with high dose of APAP without elevated plasma ALT levels. Importantly, we showed in human urine after APAP intoxication the presence of SOD1 and CA3, whereas both proteins were absent in control urine samples. Urinary concentrations of CaM were significantly increased and correlated well with plasma APAP concentrations (r = 0.97; p<0.0001) in human APAP intoxicants, who did not present with elevated plasma ALT levels. In conclusion, using this urinary proteomics approach we demonstrate CA3, SOD1 and, most importantly, CaM as potential human biomarkers for APAP-induced liver injury.
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