North, T.E., Babu, I.R., Vedder, L.M., Lord, A.M., Wishnok, J.S., Tannenbaum, S.R., Zon, L.I., and Goessling, W. (2010) PGE2-regulated wnt signaling and N-acetylcysteine are synergistically hepatoprotective in zebrafish acetaminophen injury. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 107(40):17315-17320.
Acetaminophen (APAP) toxicity is the most common drug-induced cause of acute liver failure in the United States. The only available treatment, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), has a limited time window of efficacy, indicating a need for additional therapeutic options. Zebrafish have emerged as a powerful tool for drug discovery. Here, we developed a clinically relevant zebrafish model of APAP toxicity. APAP depleted glutathione stores, elevated aminotransferase levels, increased apoptosis, and caused dose-dependent hepatocyte necrosis. These outcomes were limited by NAC and conserved in zebrafish embryos. In a targeted embryonic chemical screen, prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) was identified as a potential therapeutic agent; in the adult, PGE2 similarly decreased APAP-associated toxicity. Significantly, when combined with NAC, PGE2 extended the time window for a successful intervention, synergistically reducing apoptosis, improving liver enzymes, and preventing death. Use of a wnt reporter zebrafish line and chemical genetic epistasis showed that the effects of PGE2 are mediated through the wnt signaling pathway. Zebrafish can be used as a clinically relevant toxicological model amenable to the identification of additional therapeutics and biomarkers of APAP injury; our data suggest combinatorial PGE2 and NAC treatment would be beneficial for patients with APAP-induced liver damage.