An overdose of acetaminophen (APAP) causes liver injury both in experimental animals and humans. N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) is clinically used as an antidote for APAP intoxication, and it is thought to act by providing cysteine as a precursor of glutathione, which traps a reactive metabolite of APAP. Other hepatoprotective mechanisms of NAC have also been suggested. Here, we examined the effects of thiol compounds with different abilities to restore hepatic glutathione, on hepatotoxicity of APAP and furosemide in mice. Overnight-fasted male CD-1 mice were given APAP or furosemide intraperitoneally. NAC, cysteine, glutathione, or glutathione-monoethyl ester was administered concomitantly with APAP or furosemide. All thiol compounds used in this study effectively protected mice against APAP-induced liver injury. Only glutathione-monoethyl ester completely prevented APAP-induced early hepatic glutathione depletion. Cysteine also significantly restored hepatic glutathione levels. NAC partially restored glutathione levels. Exogenous glutathione had no effect on hepatic glutathione loss. NAC and glutathione highly stimulated the hepatic expression of cytokines, particularly interleukin-6, which might be involved in the alleviation of APAP hepatotoxicity. Furosemide-induced liver injury, which does not accompany hepatic glutathione depletion, was also attenuated by NAC and exogenous glutathione, supporting their protective mechanisms other than replenishment of glutathione. In conclusion, exogenous thiols could alleviate drug-induced liver injury. NAC and glutathione might exert their effects, at least partially, via mechanisms that are independent of increasing hepatic glutathione, but probably act through cytokine-mediated and anti-inflammatory mechanisms.
2011 The Pharmaceutical Society of Japan