Human hepatocellular carcinoma cell lines cultured in a monolayer show negligible activities of drug-metabolizing enzymes such as cytochrome P450s (CYPs) and UDP-glucuronosyltransferases (UGTs). Here, we show that culture of human hepatocellular carcinoma FLC-4 cells on 24-well plates arrayed with uniform micro-sized compartments on the bottom of the plates (micro-space cell culture plates) resulted in increased expression of drug-metabolizing enzymes (CYP1A2, CYP2C9, CYP3A4, UGT1A1, etc.) and nuclear receptors (pregnane X receptor, constitutive androstane receptor, etc.). When cells were treated with a typical CYP3A substrate (triazolam), CYP2C9 substrate (diclofenac) or UGT1A1 substrate (SN-38), large amounts of their metabolites were detected in the medium of cells cultured on micro-space cell culture plates. The formation of metabolites from triazolam, diclofenac and SN-38 was strongly inhibited by co-treatment with a CYP3A inhibitor (ketoconazole), CYP2C9 inhibitor (sulfaphenazole) and UGT1A1 inhibitor (ketoconazole), respectively. On the other hand, formation of metabolites was not observed in the medium of cells cultured in a monolayer. Finally, the cytotoxic effect of aflatoxin B1 was more potent in cells cultured on micro-space cell culture plates than in cells cultured in a monolayer. The results suggest that FLC-4 cells cultured on micro-space cell culture plates are useful for studying drug metabolism and drug-induced hepatotoxicity.
2012 by The Japanese Society for the Study of Xenobiotics