Transcriptomic-based evaluation of trichloroethylene glutathione and cysteine conjugates demonstrate phenotype-dependent stress responses in a panel of human in vitro models

Archives of Toxicology
Capinha Liliana, Zhang Yaran, Holzer Anna-Katharina, Ückert Anna-Katharina, Zana Melinda, Carta Giada, Murphy Cormac, Baldovini Jenna, Mazidi Zahra, Grillari Johannes, Dinnyés András, van de Water Bob, Leist Marcel, Commandeur Jan N. M., Jennings Paul
DOI: 10.1007/s00204-022-03436-6
PMID: 36576512
Keyword: cytotoxicity · glutathione conjugation pathway · hazard identification · multi-organ toxicity · transcriptomics


Environmental or occupational exposure of humans to trichloroethylene (TCE) has been associated with different extrahepatic toxic effects, including nephrotoxicity and neurotoxicity. Bioactivation of TCE via the glutathione (GSH) conjugation pathway has been proposed as underlying mechanism, although only few mechanistic studies have used cell models of human origin. In this study, six human derived cell models were evaluated as in vitro models representing potential target tissues of TCE-conjugates: RPTEC/TERT1 (kidney), HepaRG (liver), HUVEC/TERT2 (vascular endothelial), LUHMES (neuronal, dopaminergic), human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) derived peripheral neurons (UKN5) and hiPSC-derived differentiated brain cortical cultures containing all subtypes of neurons and astrocytes (BCC42). A high throughput transcriptomic screening, utilizing mRNA templated oligo-sequencing (TempO-Seq), was used to study transcriptomic effects after exposure to TCE-conjugates. Cells were exposed to a wide range of concentrations of S-(1,2-trans-dichlorovinyl)glutathione (1,2-DCVG), S-(1,2-trans-dichlorovinyl)-L-cysteine (1,2-DCVC), S-(2,2-dichlorovinyl)glutathione (2,2-DCVG), and S-(2,2-dichlorovinyl)-L-cysteine (2,2-DCVC). 1,2-DCVC caused stress responses belonging to the Nrf2 pathway and Unfolded protein response in all the tested models but to different extents. The renal model was the most sensitive model to both 1,2-DCVC and 1,2-DCVG, with an early Nrf2-response at 3 µM and hundreds of differentially expressed genes at higher concentrations. Exposure to 2,2-DCVG and 2,2-DCVC also resulted in the upregulation of Nrf2 pathway genes in RPTEC/TERT1 although at higher concentrations. Of the three neuronal models, both the LUHMES and BCC42 showed significant Nrf2-responses and at higher concentration UPR-responses, supporting recent hypotheses that 1,2-DCVC may be involved in neurotoxic effects of TCE. The cell models with the highest expression of γ-glutamyltransferase (GGT) enzymes, showed cellular responses to both 1,2-DCVG and 1,2-DCVC. Little to no effects were found in the neuronal models from 1,2-DCVG exposure due to their low GGT-expression. This study expands our knowledge on tissue specificity of TCE S-conjugates and emphasizes the value of human cell models together with transcriptomics for such mechanistic studies.