Acetaminophen (APAP)-induced liver injury is the most frequent cause of acute liver failure in Western countries. Pirfenidone (PFD), an orally bioavailable pyridone derivative, is clinically used for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis treatment and has antifibrotic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects. Here we examined the PFD effect on APAP-induced liver injury. In a murine model, APAP caused serum alanine aminotransferase elevation attenuated by PFD treatment. We performed terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated deoxyuridine triphosphate nick-end labeling (TUNEL) and vital propidium iodide (PI) stainings simultaneously. APAP induced TUNEL-positive/PI-negative necrosis around the central vein and subsequent TUNEL-negative/PI-positive oncotic necrosis with hemorrhage and caused the upregulation of hypercoagulation- and hypoxia-associated gene expressions. PFD treatment suppressed these findings. Western blotting revealed PFD suppressed APAP-induced c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) phosphorylation despite no effect on JNK phosphatase expressions. In conclusion, simultaneous TUNEL and vital PI staining is useful for discriminating APAP-induced necrosis from typical oncotic necrosis. Our results indicated that PFD attenuated APAP-induced liver injury by suppressing TUNEL-positive necrosis by directly blocking JNK phosphorylation. PFD is promising as a new option to prevent APAP-induced liver injury.
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