Systems pharmacology modeling of drug-induced hyperbilirubinemia: Differentiating hepatotoxicity and inhibition of enzymes/transporters

Publication: Clin Pharmacol Ther
Software: DILIsym®
Division: DILIsym Services


Elevations in serum bilirubin during drug treatment may indicate global liver dysfunction and a high risk of liver failure. However, drugs also can increase serum bilirubin in the absence of hepatic injury by inhibiting specific enzymes/transporters. We constructed a mechanistic model of bilirubin disposition based on known functional polymorphisms in bilirubin metabolism/transport. Using physiologically based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) model-predicted drug exposure and enzyme/transporter inhibition constants determined in vitro, our model correctly predicted indinavir-mediated hyperbilirubinemia in humans and rats. Nelfinavir was predicted not to cause hyperbilirubinemia, consistent with clinical observations. We next examined a new drug candidate that caused both elevations in serum bilirubin and biochemical evidence of liver injury in rats. Simulations suggest that bilirubin elevation primarily resulted from inhibition of transporters rather than global liver dysfunction. We conclude that mechanistic modeling of bilirubin can help elucidate underlying mechanisms of drug-induced hyperbilirubinemia, and thereby distinguish benign from clinically important elevations in serum bilirubin.

By Christina Battista, Jeffery Woodhead, Paul B Watkins, Scott Q Siler, Brett A Howell