BACKGROUND Remifentanil interferes with hepatic mitochondrial function. The aim of the present study was to evaluate whether hepatic mitochondrial function is affected by fentanyl, a more widely used opioid than remifentanil. METHODS Human hepatoma HepG2 cells were exposed to fentanyl or pretreated with naloxone (an opioid receptor antagonist) or 5-hydroxydecanoate (5-HD, an inhibitor of mitochondrial adenosine triphosphate (ATP)-sensitive potassium [mitoKATP] channels), followed by incubation with fentanyl. Mitochondrial function and metabolism were then analyzed. RESULTS Fentanyl marginally reduced maximal mitochondrial complex-specific respiration rates using exogenous substrates (decrease in medians: 11%-18%; P = 0.003-0.001) but did not affect basal cellular respiration rates (P = 0.834). The effect on stimulated respiration was prevented by preincubation with naloxone or 5-HD. Fentanyl reduced cellular ATP content in a dose-dependent manner (P <0.001), an effect that was not significantly prevented by 5-HD and not explained by increased total ATPase concentration. However, in vitro ATPase activity of recombinant human permeability glycoprotein (an ATP-dependent drug efflux transporter) was significantly stimulated by fentanyl (P = 0.004). CONCLUSIONS Our data suggest that fentanyl reduces stimulated mitochondrial respiration of cultured human hepatocytes by a mechanism that is blocked by a mitoKATP channel antagonist. Increased energy requirements for fentanyl efflux transport may offer an explanation for the substantial decrease in cellular ATP concentration.
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