Clinically Relevant Cytochrome P450 3A4 Induction Mechanisms and Drug Screening in Three-Dimensional Spheroid Cultures of Primary Human Hepatocytes

Delilah F.G. Hendriks, Sabine U. Vorrink, Tomas Smutny, Sarah C. Sim, Åsa Nordling, Shahid Ullah, Masaki Kumondai, Barry C. Jones, Inger Johansson, Tommy B. Andersson, Volker M. Lauschke, Magnus Ingelman-Sundberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Cytochrome P450 (CYP) 3A4 induction is an important cause of drug–drug interactions, making early identification of drug candidates with CYP3A4 induction liability in drug development a prerequisite. Here, we present three-dimensional (3D) spheroid cultures of primary human hepatocytes (PHHs) as a novel CYP3A4 induction screening model. Screening of 25 drugs (12 known CYP3A4 inducers in vivo and 13 negative controls) at physiologically relevant concentrations revealed a 100% sensitivity and 100% specificity of the system. Three of the in vivo CYP3A4 inducers displayed much higher CYP3A4 induction capacity in 3D spheroid cultures as compared with in two-dimensional (2D) monolayer cultures. Among those, we identified AZD1208, a proviral integration site for Moloney murine leukemia virus (PIM) kinase inhibitor terminated in phase I of development due to unexpected CYP3A4 autoinduction, as a CYP3A4 inducer only active in 3D spheroids but not in 2D monolayer cultures. Gene knockdown experiments revealed that AZD1208 requires pregnane X receptor (PXR) to induce CYP3A4. Rifampicin requires solely PXR to induce CYP3A4 and CYP2B6, while phenobarbital-mediated induction of these CYPs did not show absolute dependency on either PXR or constitutive androstane receptor (CAR), suggesting its ability to switch nuclear receptor activation. Mechanistic studies into AZD1208 uncovered an involvement of the mitogen-activated protein kinase/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (MAPK/ERK) pathway in CYP3A4 induction that is sensitive to the culture format used, as revealed by its inhibition of ERK1/2 Tyrosine 204 phosphorylation and sensitivity to epidermal growth factor (EGF) pressure. In line, we also identified lapatinib, a dual epidermal growth factor receptor/human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (EGFR/HER2) inhibitor, as another CYP3A4 inducer only active in 3D spheroid culture. Our findings offer insights into the pathways involved in CYP3A4 induction and suggest PHH spheroids for preclinical CYP3A4 induction screening.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)844-855
Number of pages12
JournalClinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes


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