Nafenopin is a known inducer of peroxisome proliferation in the hepatocytes of treated rodents. Primary cultures of adult rat hepatocytes maintained in a chemically-defined medium respond to the drug. RNAs from hepatocyte cultures treated for 1, 8 and 20 hr and their untreated counterparts have been purified and hybridized to radioactive cDNA probes specific for peroxisomal mRNAs (for catalase and the three enzymes of the β-oxidation system). The amount of the specific mRNAs was fairly constant or increased slightly in control cultures, but increased steadily during treatment of the cultures with a non-toxic dose of nafenopin (32 μm). For the peroxisomal bifunctional enzyme mRNA, representative of the β-oxidation system, this increase was approximately fivefold after 20 hr, whereas for catalase mRNA a twofold increase compared with the control was observed after 20 hr. The time-course of the induction of the peroxisomal bifunctional enzyme mRNA in vitro was found to be similar to that observed after intragastric treatment of rats with nafenopin. This indicates that mechanistic studies on the early events induced in hepatocytes by peroxisome proliferators can be performed with this culture system. Such studies may help to explain the hepatotoxic/hepatocarcinogenic properties of this class of xenobiotics.
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