Acetaminophen (APAP) is the most commonly used analgesic and antipyretic drug in the world. Yet, it poses a major risk of liver injury when taken in excess of the therapeutic dose. Current clinical markers do not detect the early onset of liver injury associated with excess APAP-information that is vital to reverse injury progression through available therapeutic interventions. Hence, several studies have used transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics technologies, both independently and in combination, in an attempt to discover potential early markers of liver injury. However, the casual relationship between these observations and their relation to the APAP mechanism of liver toxicity are not clearly understood. Here, we used Sprague-Dawley rats orally gavaged with a single dose of 2 g/kg of APAP to collect tissue samples from the liver and kidney for transcriptomic analysis and plasma and urine samples for metabolomic analysis. We developed and used a multi-tissue, metabolism-based modeling approach to integrate these data, characterize the effect of excess APAP levels on liver metabolism, and identify a panel of plasma and urine metabolites that are associated with APAP-induced liver toxicity. Our analyses, which indicated that pathways involved in nucleotide-, lipid-, and amino acid-related metabolism in the liver were most strongly affected within 10 h following APAP treatment, identified a list of potential metabolites in these pathways that could serve as plausible markers of APAP-induced liver injury. Our approach identifies toxicant-induced changes in endogenous metabolism, is applicable to other toxicants based on transcriptomic data, and provides a mechanistic framework for interpreting metabolite alterations.
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