Toxicol Sci 2012 Oct 12;129(2):456-68. Epub 2012 Jul 12.
Laboratory of Metabolism, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.
Rifaximin, a nonsystemic antibiotic that exhibits low gastrointestinal absorption, is a potent agonist of human pregnane X receptor (PXR), which contributes to its therapeutic efficacy in inflammatory bowel disease. To investigate the effects of long-term administration of rifaximin on the liver, PXR-humanized mice were administered rifaximin for 6 months; wild-type and Pxr-null mice were treated in parallel as controls. Histological analysis revealed time-dependent intense hepatocellular fatty degeneration and increased hepatic triglycerides in PXR-humanized mice and not in wild-type and Pxr-null mice. After long-term treatment, PXR target genes were induced in small intestine and liver, with significant up-regulation in the expression of hepatic genes related to triglyceride synthesis and lipid accumulation. However, no significant hepatic accumulation of rifaximin was found, even after 6 months of treatment, in PXR-humanized mice. Genes in the small intestine that are involved in the uptake of fatty acids and triglycerides were induced along with increased triglyceride accumulation in intestinal epithelial cells of PXR-humanized mice; this was not observed in wild-type and Pxr-null mice. These findings suggest that long-term administration of rifaximin could lead to PXR-dependent hepatocellular fatty degeneration as a result of activation of genes involved in lipid uptake, thus indicating a potential adverse effect of rifaximin on liver function after long-term exposure.