Keratin-18 and microRNA-122 complement alanine aminotransferase as novel safety biomarkers for drug-induced liver injury in two human cohorts



Background & Aims

There is a demand for more sensitive, specific and predictive biomarkers for drug-induced liver injury (DILI) than the gold standard used today, alanine aminotransferase (ALT). The aim of this study was to qualify novel DILI biomarkers (keratin-18 markers M65/M30, microRNA-122, glutamate dehydrogenase and alpha-foetoprotein) in human DILI.


Levels of the novel biomarkers were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay or real-time quantitative reverse-transcription PCR (qRT-PCR) in two human DILI cohorts: a human volunteer study with acetaminophen and a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/tuberculosis (TB) study.


In the acetaminophen study, serum M65 and microRNA-122 levels were significantly increased at an earlier time point than ALT. Furthermore, the maximal elevation of M65 and microRNA-122 exceeded the increase in ALT. In the HIV/TB study, all the analysed novel biomarkers increased after 1 week of treatment. In contrast to ALT, the novel biomarkers remained stable in a human cohort with exercise-induced muscular injury.


M65 and microRNA-122 are potential biomarkers of DILI superior to ALT with respect to sensitivity and specificity.