Fipronil induces CYP isoforms and cytotoxicity in human hepatocytes

Parikshit C. Das, Yan Cao, Nathan Cherrington, Ernest Hodgson, Randy L. Rose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


Recent studies have demonstrated the potential of pesticides to either inhibit or induce xenobiotic metabolizing enzymes in humans. Exposure of human hepatocytes to doses of fipronil (5-amino-1-[2,6-dichloro-4-(trifluoromethyl)phenyl]-4-[(trifluoromethyl) sulfinyl]-1H-pyrazole-3-carbonitrile) ranging from 0.1 to 25 μM resulted in a dose dependent increase in CYP1A1 mRNA expression (3.5 to ∼55-fold) as measured by the branched DNA assay. In a similar manner, CYP3A4 mRNA expression was also induced (10-30-fold), although at the higher doses induction returned to near control levels. CYP2B6 and 3A5 were also induced by fipronil, although at lower levels (2-3-fold). Confirmation of bDNA results were sought through western blotting and/or enzyme activity assays. Western blots using CYP3A4 antibody demonstrated a dose responsive increase from 0.5 to 1 μM followed by decreasing responses at higher concentrations. Similar increases and decreases were observed in CYP3A4-specific activity levels as measured using 6β-hydroxytestosterone formation following incubation with testosterone. Likewise, activity levels for a CYP1A1-specific substrate, luciferin CEE, demonstrated that CYP1A1 enzyme activities were maximally induced by 1 μM fipronil followed by dramatically declining activity measurements at 10 and 25 μM. Cytotoxic effects of fipronil and fipronil sulfone were examined using the adenylate kinase and the trypan blue exclusion assays in HepG2 cells and human hepatocytes. The results indicate both that HepG2 cells and primary human hepatocytes are sensitive to the cytotoxic effects of fipronil. The maximum induction of adenylate kinase was ca. 3-fold greater than the respective controls in HepG2 and 6-10-fold in the case of primary hepatocytes. A significant time- and dose-dependent induction of adenylate kinase activity in HepG2 cells was noted from 0.1 to 12.5 μM fipronil followed by decreasing activities at 25 and 50 μM. For fipronil sulfone, cytotoxic effects increased throughout the dose range. The trypan blue assay indicated that cytotoxic effects contributing to an increase of greater than 10% of control values was indicated at doses above 12.5 μM. However, fipronil sulfone induced cytotoxic effects at lower doses. The possibility that cytotoxic effects were due to apoptosis was indicated by significant time- and dose-dependent induction of caspase-3/7 activity in both HepG2 cells and human hepatocytes. Fipronil mediated activation of caspase-3/7 in concurrence with compromised ATP production and viability are attributed to apoptotic cell death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)200-214
Number of pages15
JournalChemico-Biological Interactions
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 15 2006


  • Apoptosis
  • CYP1A1
  • CYP2B6
  • CYP3A4
  • Cytotoxicity
  • Fipronil
  • Human hepatic and HepG2 cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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