Azoxymethane-induced fulminant hepatic failure in C57BL/6J mice: Characterization of a new animal model

Kristina A. Matkowskyj, Jorge A. Marrero, Robert E. Carroll, Alexey V. Danilkovich, Richard M. Green, Richard V. Benya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Without transplantation, ~50-90% of all patients with fulminant hepatic failure (FHF) die. This poor outcome is due in part to the absence of an appropriate animal model, which would allow for a greater understanding of the pathophysiology of this syndrome. Given the reports of liver injury in humans and livestock fed cycad palm nuts on the island of Guam, we hypothesized that the active ingredient azoxymethane (AOM) could cause FHF. We therefore evaluated AOM in C57BL/6J mice. Histologically, we observed microvesicular steatosis 2 h, sinusoidal dilatation 4 h, and centrilobular necrosis 20 h after AOM administration, and transmission electron microscopy showed that this agent causes mitochondrial injury. FHF was associated with all four stages of encephalopathy, as well as by a prodromal period of decreased eating and drinking lasting ~15 h before the development of stage I encephalopathy (i.e., loss of scatter reflex). Late encephalopathy was associated with increased arterial ammonia, decreased serum glucose, and evidence of brain edema (astrocyte swelling). We show that AOM-induced FHF is highly reproducible, without evidence of lot-to-lot variability, and is dose dependent. These findings therefore suggest that AOM is an excellent agent for the study of FHF, as well as indicate that Guamanian FHF may be due to AOM found in unwashed cycad palm nuts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)G455-G462
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number2 40-2
StatePublished - 1999


  • Astrocytes
  • Central nervous system edema
  • Hepatic encephalopathy
  • Hepatic injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Physiology (medical)


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