Itraconazole and fluconazole are potent wide spectrum antifungal drugs. Both of these drugs induce hepatotoxicity clinically. The mechanism underlying the hepatotoxicity is unknown. The purpose of this study was to investigate the role of phenobarbital (PB), an inducer of cytochrome P450 (CYP), and SKF 525A, an inhibitor of CYP, in the mechanism of hepatotoxicity induced by these two drugs in vivo. Rats were pretreated with PB (75 mg/kg for 4 days) prior to itraconazole or fluconazole dosing (20 and 200 mg/kg for 4 days). In the inhibition study, for 4 consecutive days, rats were pretreated with SKF 525A (50 mg/kg) or saline followed by itraconazole or fluconazole (20 and 200 mg/kg) Dose-dependent increases in plasma alanine aminotransferase (ALT), gamma-glutamyl transferase (gamma-GT), and alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activities and in liver weight were detected in rats receiving itraconazole treatment. Interestingly, pretreatment with PB prior to itraconazole reduced the ALT and gamma-GT activities and the liver weight of rats. No changes were observed in rats treated with fluconazole. Pretreatment with SKF 525A induced more severe hepatotoxicity for both itraconazole and fluconazole. CYP 3A activity was inhibited dose-dependently by itraconazole treatment. Itraconazole had no effects on the activity of CYP 1A and 2E. Fluconazole potently inhibited all three isoenzymes of CYP. PB plays a role in hepatoprotection to itraconazole-induced but not fluconazole-induced hepatotoxicity. SKF 525A enhanced the hepatotoxicity of both antifungal drugs in vivo. Therefore, it can be concluded that inhibition of CYP may play a key role in the mechanism of hepatotoxicity induced by itraconazole and fluconazole.
This current study was to investigate the in vitro cytotoxicity of rat hepatocytes induced by the antifungal drugs, itraconazole and fluconazole. Both antifungal drugs caused dose-dependent cytotoxicity. In vitro incubation of hepatocytes with itraconazole revealed significantly higher lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) leakage when compared to fluconazole. Phenobarbital pretreated hepatocytes contained significantly higher total cytochrome P450 content than the control hepatocytes. P450 content was reduced approximately 30% for both types of hepatocytes after 6 hours incubation. Interestingly, cytotoxicity of itraconazole was reduced significantly by phenobarbital pretreatment. Phenobarbital did not have any effect on the cytotoxicity induced by fluconazole. These results demonstrate the in vitro toxicity of hepatocytes induced by itraconazole and fluconazole that were expressed in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Phenobarbital plays a role in the cytoprotection of hepatocytes to itraconazole-induced but not fluconazole-induced cytotoxicity in vitro.
Itraconazole and fluconazole are oral antifungal drugs, which have a wide spectrum antifungal activity and better efficacy than the older drugs. However, both drugs have been associated with hepatotoxicity in susceptible patients. The mechanism of antifungal drug-induced hepatotoxicity is largely unknown. Therefore, the aim of this present study was to investigate and compare the hepatotoxicity induced by these drugs in vivo. Rats were treated intraperitoneally with itraconazole or fluconazole either single (0, 10, 100 and 200 mg/kg) or subchronic (0, 10, 50 and 100 mg/kg per day for 14 days) doses. Plasma and liver samples were taken at the end of the study. A statistically significant and dose dependent increase of plasma alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activities were detected in the subchronic itraconazole-treated group. In addition, dose-dependent hepatocellular necrosis, degeneration of periacinar and mizonal hepatocytes, bile duct hyperplasia and biliary cirrhosis and giant cell granuloma were observed histologically in the same group. Interestingly, fluconazole treated rats had no significant increase in transaminases for both single and subchronic groups. In the subchronic fluconazole treated rats, only mild degenerative changes of centrilobular hepatocytes were observed. These results demonstrated that itraconazole was a more potent hepatotoxicant than fluconazole in vivo in rats.