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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Contrasting model mechanisms of alanine aminotransferase (ALT) release from damaged and necrotic hepatocytes as an example of general biomarker mechanisms.

  • Author(s): Smith, Andrew K
  • Ropella, Glen EP
  • McGill, Mitchell R
  • Krishnan, Preethi
  • Dutta, Lopamudra
  • Kennedy, Ryan C
  • Jaeschke, Hartmut
  • Hunt, C Anthony
  • et al.

Interpretations of elevated blood levels of alanine aminotransferase (ALT) for drug-induced liver injury often assume that the biomarker is released passively from dying cells. However, the mechanisms driving that release have not been explored experimentally. The usefulness of ALT and related biomarkers will improve by developing mechanism-based explanations of elevated levels that can be expanded and elaborated incrementally. We provide the means to challenge the ability of closely related model mechanisms to generate patterns of simulated hepatic injury and ALT release that scale (or not) to be quantitatively similar to the wet-lab validation targets, which are elevated plasma ALT values following acetaminophen (APAP) exposure in mice. We build on a published model mechanism that helps explain the generation of characteristic spatiotemporal features of APAP hepatotoxicity within hepatic lobules. Discrete event and agent-oriented software methods are most prominent. We instantiate and leverage a small constellation of concrete model mechanisms. Their details during execution help bring into focus ways in which particular sources of uncertainty become entangled with cause-effect details within and across several levels. We scale ALT amounts in virtual mice directly to target plasma ALT values in individual mice. A virtual experiment comprises a set of Monte Carlo simulations. We challenge the sufficiency of four potentially explanatory theories for ALT release. The first of the tested model theories failed to achieve the initial validation target, but each of the three others succeeded. Results for one of the three model mechanisms matched all target ALT values quantitatively. It explains how ALT externalization is the combined consequence of lobular-location-dependent drug-induced cellular damage and hepatocyte death. Falsification of one (or more) of the model mechanisms provides new knowledge and incrementally shrinks the constellation of model mechanisms. The modularity and biomimicry of our explanatory models enable seamless transition from mice to humans.

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