Liver injury due to acetaminophen (APAP) overdose is the major cause of acute liver failure in the United States. While treatment with N-acetylcysteine is the current standard of care for APAP overdose, anecdotal evidence suggests that administration of 4-methylpyrazole (4MP) may be beneficial in the clinic. The objective of the current study was to examine the protective effect of 4MP and its mechanism of action. Male C57BL/6J mice were co-treated with 300 mg/kg of APAP and 50 mg/kg of 4MP. The severe liver injury induced by APAP at 6 h as indicated by elevated plasma alanine aminotransferase activities, centrilobular necrosis, and nuclear DNA fragmentation was almost completely eliminated by 4MP. In addition, 4MP largely prevented APAP-induced activation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), mitochondrial translocation of phospho-JNK and Bax, and the release of mitochondrial intermembrane proteins. Importantly, 4MP inhibited the generation of APAP protein adducts and formation of APAP-glutathione (GSH) conjugates and attenuated the depletion of the hepatic GSH content. These findings are relevant to humans because 4MP also prevented APAP-induced cell death in primary human hepatocytes. In conclusion, early treatment with 4MP can completely prevent liver injury after APAP overdose by inhibiting cytochrome P450 and preventing generation of the reactive metabolite.
Toxicol Sci. 2018 Apr 1;162(2):599-610. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfy002.