The mechanisms of acetaminophen (APAP)-mediated hepatic oncotic necrosis have been extensively characterized. However, it was recently demonstrated that fed CD-1 mice have a transient caspase activation which initiates apoptosis. To evaluate these findings in more detail, outbred (Swiss Webster, SW) and inbred (C57BL/6) mice were treated with APAP with or without pan-caspase inhibitor and compared to the apoptosis model of galactosamine (GalN)/endotoxin (ET). Fasted or fed APAP-treated C57BL/6 mice showed no evidence of caspase-3 processing or activity. Interestingly, a minor, temporary increase in caspase-3 processing and activity (150% above baseline) was observed after APAP treatment only in fed SW mice. The degree of caspase-3 activation in SW mice after APAP was minor compared to that observed in GalN/ET-treated mice (1600% above baseline). The pancaspase inhibitor attenuated caspase activation and resulted in increased APAP-induced injury (plasma ALT, necrosis scoring). The caspase inhibitor did not affect apoptosis because regardless of treatment only <0.5% of hepatocytes showed consistent apoptotic morphology after APAP. In contrast, >20% apoptotic cells were observed in GalN/ET-treated mice. Presence of the caspase inhibitor altered hepatic glutathione levels in SW mice, which could explain the exacerbation of injury. Additionally, the infiltration of hepatic neutrophils was not altered by the fed state of either mouse strain.
CONCLUSION: Minor caspase-3 activation without apoptotic cell death can be observed only in fed mice of some outbred strains. These findings suggest that although the severity of APAP-induced liver injury varies between fed and fasted animals, the mechanism of cell death does not fundamentally change.
Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2011 Dec 15;257(3):449-58. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2011.10.006. Epub 2011 Oct 14.