Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) are a group of phytotoxins that can induce human liver injury, particularly hepatic sinusoidal obstruction syndrome (HSOS). To date, the molecular targets of PA-induced HSOS are largely unknown. In this study, retrorsine (RTS), a known hepatotoxic PA, was used as a representative PA for proteomic studies. Toxicological assessment demonstrated that 35 mg/kg RTS (designated as RTS-L) caused early lesions of HSOS at 24 h after dosing. A proteomic approach revealed 17 up-regulated and 31 down-regulated proteins in RTS-L-treated rats. Subsequently, bioinformatic analysis suggested that two proteins, carbamoyl-phosphate synthase (CPS1) (p < 0.05) and ATP synthase subunit beta (ATP5B) (p < 0.01) were associated with RTS-L intoxication. Using immunohistochemical staining, we further verified the down-regulation of CPS1 and ATP5B in RTS-L-treated rats. These findings indicated that CPS1 and ATP5B were altered in the RTS-induced early lesions of HSOS in rats, and therefore, these two proteins and their involved pathways might play important roles in the initiation of HSOS. To the best of our knowledge, our study using a proteomic approach combined with conventional toxicological assessment is the first systems toxicology study on PA-induced HSOS. The results of this study provide novel findings on protein profiles in response to PA exposure, which can serve as a starting point to further investigate potential protein targets and their interactions with PAs to induce HSOS.
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