Geter DR, Bhat VS, Gollapudi BB, Sura R, Hester SD. 2014. Dose-response modeling of early molecular and cellular key events in the CAR-mediated hepatocarcinogenesis pathway. Toxicol Sci 138:425-445.
Low-dose extrapolation and dose-related transitions are paramount in the ongoing debate regarding the quantification of cancer risks for non-genotoxic carcinogens. Phenobarbital (PB) is a prototypical non-genotoxic carcinogen that activates the constitutive androstane receptor (CAR) resulting in rodent liver tumors. In this study, male and female CD-1 mice administered dietary PB at 0, 0.15, 1.5, 15, 75, or 150 mg/kg-day for 2 or 7 days to characterize multiple apical and molecular endpoints below, at (∼75 mg/kg-day), and above the carcinogenic dose level of PB and examine these responses using benchmark dose modeling. Linear toxicokinetics were observed for all doses. Increased liver weight, hepatocellular hypertrophy, and mitotic figures were seen at 75 and 150 mg/kg-day. CAR activation, based on Cyp2b qPCR and pentoxyresorufin dealkylase activity, occurred at doses ≥ 1.5 mg/kg-day. The no-observable transcriptional effect level for global gene expression was 15 mg/kg-day. At 2 days, several xenobiotic metabolism and cell protective pathways were activated at lower doses and to a greater degree in females. However, hepatocellular proliferation, quantified by BrdU immunohistochemistry, was the most sensitive indicator of PB exposure with female mice more sensitive than males, contrary to sex-specific differences in sensitivity to hepatocarcinogenesis. Taken together, the identification of low-dose cellular and molecular transitions in the subtumorigenic dose range aids the understanding of early key events in CAR-mediated hepatocarcinogenesis.