Role of caspase-1 and interleukin-1β in acetaminophen-induced hepatic inflammation and liver injury

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Acetaminophen (APAP) overdose can result in serious liver injury and potentially death. Toxicity is dependent on metabolism of APAP to a reactive metabolite initiating a cascade of intracellular events resulting in hepatocellular necrosis. This early injury triggers a sterile inflammatory response with formation of cytokines and innate immune cell infiltration in the liver. Recently, IL-1β signaling has been implicated in the potentiation of APAP-induced liver injury. To test if IL-1β formation through caspase-1 is critical for the pathophysiology, C57Bl/6 mice were treated with the pan-caspase inhibitor Z-VD-fmk to block the inflammasome-mediated maturation of IL-1β during APAP overdose (300 mg/kg APAP). This intervention did not affect IL-1β gene transcription but prevented the increase in IL-1β plasma levels. However, APAP-induced liver injury and neutrophil infiltration were not affected. Similarly, liver injury and the hepatic neutrophilic inflammation were not attenuated in IL-1-receptor-1 deficient mice compared to wild-type animals. To evaluate the potential of IL-1β to increase injury, mice were given pharmacological doses of IL-1β after APAP overdose. Despite increased systemic activation of neutrophils and recruitment into the liver, there was no alteration in injury. We conclude that endogenous IL-1β formation after APAP overdose is insufficient to activate and recruit neutrophils into the liver or cause liver injury. Even high pharmacological doses of IL-1β, which induce hepatic neutrophil accumulation and activation, do not enhance APAP-induced liver injury. Thus, IL-1 signaling is irrelevant for APAP hepatotoxicity. The inflammatory cascade is a less important therapeutic target than intracellular signaling pathways to attenuate APAP-induced liver injury.

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