Gefitinib Inhibits Rifampicin-Induced CYP3A4 Gene Expression in Human Hepatocytes

Kodye L. Abbott, Julia M. Salamat, Patrick C. Flannery, Chloe S. Chaudhury, Aneesh Chandran, Saraswathi Vishveshwara, Sridhar Mani, Jianfeng Huang, Amit K. Tiwari, Satyanarayana R. Pondugula

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During multidrug combination chemotherapy, activation of the nuclear receptor and the transcription factor human pregnane xenobiotic receptor (hPXR) has been shown to play a role in the development of chemoresistance. Mechanistically, this could occur due to the cancer drug activation of hPXR and the subsequent upregulation of hPXR target genes such as the drug metabolism enzyme, cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4). In the context of hPXR-mediated drug resistance, hPXR antagonists would be useful adjuncts to PXR-activating chemotherapy. However, there are currently no clinically approved hPXR antagonists in the market. Gefitinib (GEF), a tyrosine kinase inhibitor used for the treatment of advanced non-small-cell lung cancer and effectively used in combinational chemotherapy treatments, is a promising candidate owing to its hPXR ligand-like features. We, therefore, investigated whether GEF would act as an hPXR antagonist when combined with a known hPXR agonist, rifampicin (RIF). At therapeutically relevant concentrations, GEF successfully inhibited the RIF-induced upregulation of endogenous CYP3A4 gene expression in human primary hepatocytes and human hepatocells. Additionally, GEF inhibited the RIF induction of hPXR-mediated CYP3A4 promoter activity in HepG2 human liver carcinoma cells. The computational modeling of molecular docking predicted that GEF could bind to multiple sites on hPXR including the ligand-binding pocket, allowing for potential as a direct antagonist as well as an allosteric inhibitor. Indeed, GEF bound to the ligand-binding domain of the hPXR in cell-free assays, suggesting that GEF directly interacts with the hPXR. Taken together, our results suggest that GEF, at its clinically relevant therapeutic concentration, can antagonize the hPXR agonist-induced CYP3A4 gene expression in human hepatocytes. Thus, GEF could be a potential candidate for use in combinational chemotherapies to combat hPXR agonist-induced chemoresistance. Further studies are warranted to determine whether GEF has sufficient hPXR inhibitor abilities to overcome the hPXR agonist-induced chemoresistance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34034-34044
Number of pages11
JournalACS Omega
Issue number38
StatePublished - Sep 27 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)


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