The Effect of Plastic-Related Compounds on Transcriptome-Wide Gene Expression on CYP2C19-Overexpressing HepG2 Cells
In recent years, plastic and especially microplastic in the oceans have caused huge problems to marine flora and fauna. Recently, such particles have also been detected in blood, breast milk, and placenta, underlining their ability to enter the human body, presumably via the food chain and other yet-unknown mechanisms. In addition, plastic contains plasticizers, antioxidants, or lubricants, whose impact on human health is also under investigation. At the cellular level, the most important enzymes involved in the metabolism of xenobiotic compounds are the cytochrome P450 monooxygenases (CYPs). Despite their extensive characterization in the maintenance of cellular balance, their interactions with plastic and related products are unexplored. In this study, the possible interactions between several plastic-related compounds and one of the most important cytochromes, CYP2C19, were analyzed. By applying virtual compound screening and molecular docking to more than 1000 commercially available plastic-related compounds, we identified candidates that are likely to interact with this protein. A growth inhibition assay confirmed their cytotoxic activity on a CYP2C19-transfected hepatic cell line. Subsequently, we studied the effect of the selected compounds on the transcriptome-wide gene expression level by conducting RNA sequencing. Three candidate molecules were identified, i.e., 2,2′-methylene bis(6-tert-butyl-4-methylphenol), 1,1-bis(3,5-di-tert-butyl-2-hydroxyphenyl) ethane, and 2,2′-methylene bis(6-cyclohexyl-4-methylphenol)), which bound with a high affinity to CYP2C19 in silico. They exerted a profound cytotoxicity in vitro and interacted with several metabolic pathways, of which the ‘cholesterol biosynthesis process’ was the most affected. In addition, other affected pathways involved mitosis, DNA replication, and inflammation, suggesting an increase in hepatotoxicity. These results indicate that plastic-related compounds could damage the liver by affecting several molecular pathways.