Chlorpromazine toxicity is associated with disruption of cell membrane integrity and initiation of a pro-inflammatory response in the HepaRG hepatic cell line.


Hepatology Laboratory, University of Edinburgh, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom. Electronic address: [Email]


Chlorpromazine (CPZ) is a neuroleptic drug and prototype compound used to study intrahepatic cholestasis. The exact mechanisms of CPZ induced cholestasis remain unclear. Rat hepatocytes, or a sandwich culture of rat and human hepatocytes, have been the most commonly used models for studying CPZ toxicity in vitro. However, to better predict outcomes in pre-clinical trials where cholestasis may be an unwanted consequence, a human in vitro model, based on human HepaRG cells, capable of real-time, non-invasive and label free monitoring, alongside molecular investigations would be beneficial. To address this we used the human hepatic HepaRG cell line, and established concentrations of CPZ ranging from sub-toxic, 25 μM and 50 μM, to toxic 100 μM and compared them with untreated control. To assess the effect of this range of CPZ concentrations we employed electrical cell-substrate impedance sensing (ECIS) to measure viability and cell membrane interactions alongside traditional viability assays, immunocytostaining and qRT-PCR to assess genes of interest within adaptive and inflammatory pathways. Using these methods, we show a concentration dependant response to CPZ involving pro-inflammatory pathway, loss of tight junctions and membrane integrity, and an adaptive response mediated by Cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzyme activation and up-regulation of membrane phospholipid and xenobiotic transporters. In conclusion, structural changes within the membrane caused by sub-toxic and toxic concentrations of CPZ negatively impact the function of the cellular membrane. Damage to efflux transport proteins caused by CPZ induce cholestasis alongside downstream inflammation, which activates compensatory responses for cell survival. LAY SUMMARY: Chlorpromazine is a drug used to treat patients with schizophrenia, which has a known association with liver damage. Here we show that it causes inflammation and alters the cell membranes in liver and bile duct cells similar to what is seen within a human population. The initiation of the inflammatory response and changes to cellular structure may provide insight into the damage and disease process and inform medical treatment.


Adaptive response,Cell membrane,Chlorpromazine,ECIS,HepaRG,Impedance sensing,Pro-inflammatory,Tight junctions,