Chemical research in toxicology

Evaluation of felbamate and other antiepileptic drug toxicity potential based on hepatic protein covalent binding and gene expression.

PMID 17381134


Felbamate is an antiepileptic drug that is associated with minimal toxicity in preclinical species such as rat and dog but has an unacceptable incidence of serious idiosyncratic reactions in man. Idiosyncratic reactions account for over half of toxicity-related drug failures in the marketplace, and improving the preclinical detection of idiosyncratic toxicities is thus of paramount importance to the pharmaceutical industry. The formation of reactive metabolites is common among most drugs associated with idiosyncratic drug reactions and may cause deleterious effects through covalent binding and/or oxidative stress. In the present study, felbamate was compared to several other antiepileptic drugs (valproic acid, carbamazepine, phenobarbital, and phenytoin), using covalent binding of radiolabeled drugs and hepatic gene expression responses to evaluate oxidative stress/reactive metabolite potential. Despite causing only very mild effects on covalent binding parameters, felbamate produced robust effects on a previously established oxidative stress/reactive metabolite gene expression signature. The other antiepileptic drugs and acetaminophen are known hepatotoxicants at high doses in the rat, and all increased covalent binding to liver proteins in vivo and/or to liver microsomes from human and rat. With the exception of acetaminophen, valproic acid exhibited the highest covalent binding in vivo, whereas carbamazepine exhibited the highest levels in vitro. Pronounced effects on oxidative stress/reactive metabolite-responsive gene expression were observed after carbamazepine, phenobarbital, and phenytoin administration. Valproic acid had only minor effects on the oxidative stress/reactive metabolite indicator genes. The relative ease of detection of felbamate based on gene expression results in rat liver as having potential oxidative stressor/reactive metabolites indicates that this approach may be useful in screening for potential idiosyncratic toxicity. Together, measurements of gene expression along with covalent binding should improve the safety assessment of candidate drugs.

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