Archives of Toxicology

, Volume 65, Issue 5, pp 351–360

Biomechanisms of cocaine-induced hepatocyte injury mediated by the formation of reactive metabolites

  • Urs A. Boelsterli
  • Christian Göldlin
Review Article

DOI: 10.1007/BF02284256

Cite this article as:
Boelsterli, U.A. & Göldlin, C. Arch Toxicol (1991) 65: 351. doi:10.1007/BF02284256


Cocaine is an intrinsic hepatotoxin in laboratory animals, and there is growing evidence that high doses of cocaine can precipitate hepatic necrosis in humans. The rodent model of cocaine hepatotoxicity is commensurate with the concept that a multistep, mainly cytochrome P-450 dependentN-oxidative pathway is responsible for the expression of hepatocellular injury. Among the possible biomechanisms by which cocaine exerts its cytotoxic effects, direct oxidative damage by reactive oxygen species generated by redox cycling during the metabolic cascade seems most important. The role of the ensuing lipid peroxidation and protein thiol oxidatioin is less clear. Similarly, the functional role of irreversible (covalent) binding of a not yet defined electrophilic cocaine intermediate to hepatocellular proteins remains enigmatic so long as the critical molecular targets have not been identified. Finally, glutathione plays a pivotal protective role against cocaine-induced hepatic injury. Interactions with ethanol or inducers of the expression of the cytochrome P-450IIB subfamily can potentiate cocaine hepatotoxicity. Thus, the net amount of the ultimate reactive species seems to determine the severity of the hepatic lesions and to be responsible for the marked interspecies, interstrain, and sex differences. Recent advances in culture techniques of hepatocytes and precision-cut liver slices from various species including man have made it possible to correlate cocaine biotransformation with cytotoxicity and to selectively study the putative cellular mechanisms. Clearly, more studies are necessary to further illuminate our understanding of the role of the biochemical and molecular events precipitating hepatic necrosis during cocaine-mediated hepatotoxicity.

Key words

Cocaine Mechanisms of hepatotoxicity Cytochrome P-450IIB Irreversible binding Reactive oxygen species 
Download to read the full article text

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Urs A. Boelsterli
    • 1
  • Christian Göldlin
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of ToxicologyETH and University of ZurichSchwerzenbachSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations