Baseline and genotoxic compound induced gene expression profiles in HepG2 and HepaRG compared to primary human hepatocytes

M. J. A. Jetten*, J. C. S. Kleinjans, S. M. Claessen, C. Chesne, J. H. M. van Delft

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Efforts are put into developing toxicogenomics-based toxicity testing methods usingin vitro human cell models for improving human risk assessment/replacing animal models. Human in vitro liver models include HepG2, HepaRG and primary human hepatocytes (PHH). Studies on comparability/applicability of these cell types mainly focus on assessing baseline biotransformation capacities/cytochrome P450-inducibility, but compound-induced gene expression profiles are at least as important. Therefore, we compared baseline and aflatoxin B1- and benzo(alpha)pyrene-induced gene expression profiles in HepG2, HepaRG and PHH (11-13 donors). At baseline, all liver models differ from each other with respect to whole genome gene expression levels. PHH show profound inter-individual differences, and are most similar to HepaRG. After compound exposure, induced gene expression profiles are more similar between cell models, especially for benzo(a)pyrene. Pathways involved in compound metabolism are induced in all 3 models, while others are more pronounced in a specific cell model. Examples are transcriptomic modifications of carbohydrate-related genes (HepaRG) and of receptor-related genes (PHH) after benzo(alpha)pyrene exposure, and of cell cycle-related genes (HepG2) after aflatoxin B1 exposure. PHH gene expression responses are the most heterogeneous. In conclusion, at base line level PHH are more similar to HepaRG than to HepG2, but for toxicogenomics applications both cell lines perform equally well in comparison to PHH.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2031-2040
JournalToxicology in Vitro
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013


  • Primary human hepatocytes
  • HepaRG
  • HepG2
  • Gene expression
  • Interindividual variability

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