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1.  Profiling of the Tox21 Chemical Collection for Mitochondrial Function to Identify Compounds that Acutely Decrease Mitochondrial Membrane Potential 
Background: Mitochondrial dysfunction has been implicated in the pathogenesis of a variety of disorders including cancer, diabetes, and neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases. Understanding whether different environmental chemicals and druglike molecules impact mitochondrial function represents an initial step in predicting exposure-related toxicity and defining a possible role for such compounds in the onset of various diseases.
Objectives: We sought to identify individual chemicals and general structural features associated with changes in mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP).
Methods: We used a multiplexed [two end points in one screen; MMP and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) content] quantitative high throughput screening (qHTS) approach combined with informatics tools to screen the Tox21 library of 10,000 compounds (~ 8,300 unique chemicals) at 15 concentrations each in triplicate to identify chemicals and structural features that are associated with changes in MMP in HepG2 cells.
Results: Approximately 11% of the compounds (913 unique compounds) decreased MMP after 1 hr of treatment without affecting cell viability (ATP content). In addition, 309 compounds decreased MMP over a concentration range that also produced measurable cytotoxicity [half maximal inhibitory concentration (IC50) in MMP assay/IC50 in viability assay ≤ 3; p < 0.05]. More than 11% of the structural clusters that constitute the Tox21 library (76 of 651 clusters) were significantly enriched for compounds that decreased the MMP.
Conclusions: Our multiplexed qHTS approach allowed us to generate a robust and reliable data set to evaluate the ability of thousands of drugs and environmental compounds to decrease MMP. The use of structure-based clustering analysis allowed us to identify molecular features that are likely responsible for the observed activity.
Citation: Attene-Ramos MS, Huang R, Michael S, Witt KL, Richard A, Tice RR, Simeonov A, Austin CP, Xia M. 2015. Profiling of the Tox21 chemical collection for mitochondrial function to identify compounds that acutely decrease mitochondrial membrane potential. Environ Health Perspect 123:49–56; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1408642
doi:10.1289/ehp.1408642
PMCID: PMC4286281  PMID: 25302578
2.  A systematic study of mitochondrial toxicity of environmental chemicals using quantitative high throughput screening 
Chemical research in toxicology  2013;26(9):1323-1332.
A goal of the Tox21 program is to transit toxicity testing from traditional in vivo models to in vitro assays that assess how chemicals affect cellular responses and toxicity pathways. A critical contribution of the NIH Chemical Genomics center (NCGC) to the Tox21 program is the implementation of a quantitative high throughput screening (qHTS) approach, using cell- and biochemical-based assays to generate toxicological profiles for thousands of environmental compounds. Here, we evaluated the effect of chemical compounds on mitochondrial membrane potential in HepG2 cells by screening a library of 1,408 compounds provided by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) in a qHTS platform. Compounds were screened over 14 concentrations, and results showed that 91 and 88 compounds disrupted mitochondrial membrane potential after treatment for one or five h, respectively. Seventy-six compounds active at both time points were clustered by structural similarity, producing 11 clusters and 23 singletons. Thirty-eight compounds covering most of the active chemical space were more extensively evaluated. Thirty-six of the 38 compounds were confirmed to disrupt mitochondrial membrane potential using a fluorescence plate reader and 35 were confirmed using a high content imaging approach. Among the 38 compounds, 4 and 6 induced LDH release, a measure of cytotoxicity, at 1 or 5 h, respectively. Compounds were further assessed for mechanism of action (MOA) by measuring changes in oxygen consumption rate, which enabled identification of 20 compounds as uncouplers. This comprehensive approach allows for evaluation of thousands of environmental chemicals for mitochondrial toxicity and identification of possible MOAs.
doi:10.1021/tx4001754
PMCID: PMC4154066  PMID: 23895456
mitochondrial membrane potential assay; mitochondrial toxicity; NTP 1408 compound library; oxygen consumption rate; qHTS; Tox21 collaboration
3.  Are hERG Channel Blockers Also Phospholipidosis Inducers? 
Both pharmacophore models of the human ether-à-go-go-related gene (hERG) channel blockers and phospholipidosis (PLD) inducers contain a hydrophobic moiety and a hydrophilic motif / positively charged center, so it is interesting to investigate the overlap between the ligand chemical spaces of both targets. We have assayed over 4,000 non-redundant drug-like compounds for both their hERG inhibitory activity and PLD inducing potential in a quantitative high throughput screening (qHTS) format. Seventy-seven percent of PLD inducing compounds identified from the screening were also found to be hERG channel blockers, and 96.9% of the dually active compounds were positively charged. Among the 48 compounds that induced PLD without inhibiting hERG channel, 24 compounds (50.0%) carried steroidal structures. According to our results, hERG channel blockers and PLD inducers share a large chemical space. In addition, a positively charged hERG channel blocker will most likely induce PLD, while a steroid PLD inducer is less likely a hERG channel blocker.
doi:10.1016/j.bmcl.2013.06.034
PMCID: PMC3736554  PMID: 23856051
hERG; phospholipidosis; qHTS
4.  The Tox21 robotic platform for assessment of environmental chemicals - from vision to reality 
Drug discovery today  2013;18(0):716-723.
Since its establishment in 2008, the US Tox21 inter-agency collaboration has made great progress in developing and evaluating cellular models for the evaluation of environmental chemicals as a proof of principle. Currently, the program has entered its production phase (Tox21 Phase II) focusing initially on the areas of modulation of nuclear receptors and stress response pathways. During Tox21 Phase II, the set of chemicals to be tested has been expanded to nearly 10,000 (10K) compounds and a fully automated screening platform has been implemented. The Tox21 robotic system combined with informatics efforts is capable of screening and profiling the collection of 10K environmental chemicals in triplicate in a week. In this article, we describe the Tox21 screening process, compound library preparation, data processing, and robotic system validation.
doi:10.1016/j.drudis.2013.05.015
PMCID: PMC3771082  PMID: 23732176
10K compound library; in vitro assays; quantitative high-throughput screening; robotic platform; Tox21 collaboration; toxicity testing
5.  Profiling of the Tox21 10K compound library for agonists and antagonists of the estrogen receptor alpha signaling pathway 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:5664.
The U.S. Tox21 program has screened a library of approximately 10,000 (10K) environmental chemicals and drugs in three independent runs for estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) agonist and antagonist activity using two types of ER reporter gene cell lines, one with an endogenous full length ERα (ER-luc; BG1 cell line) and the other with a transfected partial receptor consisting of the ligand binding domain (ER-bla; ERα β-lactamase cell line), in a quantitative high-throughput screening (qHTS) format. The ability of the two assays to correctly identify ERα agonists and antagonists was evaluated using a set of 39 reference compounds with known ERα activity. Although both assays demonstrated adequate (i.e. >80%) predictivity, the ER-luc assay was more sensitive and the ER-bla assay more specific. The qHTS assay results were compared with results from previously published ERα binding assay data and showed >80% consistency. Actives identified from both the ER-bla and ER-luc assays were analyzed for structure-activity relationships (SARs) revealing known and potentially novel ERα active structure classes. The results demonstrate the feasibility of qHTS to identify environmental chemicals with the potential to interact with the ERα signaling pathway and the two different assay formats improve the confidence in correctly identifying these chemicals.
doi:10.1038/srep05664
PMCID: PMC4092345  PMID: 25012808
6.  Drug repurposing screen identifies lestaurtinib amplifies the ability of the poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase 1 inhibitor AG14361 to kill breast cancer associated gene-1 mutant and wild type breast cancer cells 
Introduction
Breast cancer is a devastating disease that results in approximately 40,000 deaths each year in the USA. Current drug screening and chemopreventatitive methods are suboptimal, due in part to the poor specificity of compounds for cancer cells. Poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase 1 (PARP1) inhibitor (PARPi)-mediated therapy is a promising approach for familial breast cancers caused by mutations of breast cancer-associated gene-1 and -2 (BRCA1/2), yet drug resistance frequently occurs during the treatment. Moreover, PARPis exhibit very little effect on cancers that are proficient for DNA repair and clinical efficacy for PARPis as single-agent therapies has yet to be illustrated.
Methods
Using a quantitative high-throughput screening approach, we screened a library containing 2,816 drugs, most of which are approved for human or animal use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or other countries, to identify compounds that sensitize breast cancer cells to PARPi. After initial screening, we performed further cellular and molecular analysis on lestaurtinib, which is an orally bioavailable multikinase inhibitor and has been used in clinical trials for myeloproliferative disorders and acute myelogenous leukemia.
Results
Our study indicated that lestaurtinib is highly potent against breast cancers as a mono-treatment agent. It also strongly enhanced the activity of the potent PARPi AG14361 on breast cancer cell growth both in vitro and in vivo conditions. The inhibition of cancer growth is measured by increased apoptosis and reduced cell proliferation. Consistent with this, the treatment results in activation of caspase 3/7, and accumulation of cells in the G2 phase of the cell cycle, irrespective of their BRCA1 status. Finally, we demonstrated that AG14361 inhibits NF-κB signaling, which is further enhanced by lestaurtinib treatment.
Conclusions
Lestaurtinib amplifies the ability of the PARP1 inhibitor AG14361 to kill BRCA1 mutant and wild-type breast cancer cells, at least in part, by inhibiting NF-κB signaling. Each of these drugs has been approved for clinical trials for several different cancers, thus, their combination treatment should be applicable for a breast cancer trial in the future.
doi:10.1186/bcr3682
PMCID: PMC4229979  PMID: 24962108
7.  Bisphenol A affects androgen receptor function via multiple mechanisms 
Chemico-biological interactions  2013;203(3):556-564.
Bisphenol A (BPA), is a well-known endocrine disruptor compound (EDC) that affects the normal development and function of the female and male reproductive system, however the mechanisms of action remain unclear. To investigate the molecular mechanisms of how BPA may affect ten different nuclear receptors, stable cell lines containing individual nuclear receptor ligand binding domain (LBD)-linked to the β-Gal reporter were examined by a quantitative high throughput screening (qHTS) format in the Tox21 Screening Program of the NIH. The results showed that two receptors, estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) and androgen receptor (AR), are affected by BPA in opposite direction. To confirm the observed effects of BPA on ERα and AR, we performed transient transfection experiments with full-length receptors and their corresponding response elements linked to luciferase reporters. We also included in this study two BPA analogs, bisphenol AF (BPAF) and bisphenol S (BPS). As seen in African green monkey kidney CV1 cells, the present study confirmed that BPA and BPAF act as ERα agonists (half maximal effective concentration EC50 of 10-100 nM) and as AR antagonists (half maximal inhibitory concentration IC50 of 1-2 μM). Both BPA and BPAF antagonized AR function via competitive inhibition of the action of synthetic androgen R1881. BPS with lower estrogenic activity (EC50 of 2.2 μM), did not compete with R1881 for AR binding, when tested at 30 μM. Finally, the effects of BPA were also evaluated in a nuclear translocation assays using EGPF-tagged receptors. Similar to 17β-estradiol (E2) which was used as control, BPA was able to enhance ERα nuclear foci formation but at a 100-fold higher concentration. Although BPA was able to bind AR, the nuclear translocation was reduced. Furthermore, BPA was unable to induce functional foci in the nuclei and is consistent with the transient transfection study that BPA is unable to activate AR.
doi:10.1016/j.cbi.2013.03.013
PMCID: PMC3722857  PMID: 23562765
Bisphenol A and related compounds; androgen receptor; qHTS; transfection; imaging analysis
8.  Identification of Thyroid Hormone Receptor Active Compounds Using a Quantitative High-Throughput Screening Platform 
To adapt the use of GH3.TRE-Luc reporter gene cell line for a quantitative high-throughput screening (qHTS) platform, we miniaturized the reporter gene assay to a 1536-well plate format. 1280 chemicals from the Library of Pharmacologically Active Compounds (LOPAC) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP) 1408 compound collection were analyzed to identify potential thyroid hormone receptor (TR) agonists and antagonists. Of the 2688 compounds tested, eight scored as potential TR agonists when the positive hit cut-off was defined at ≥10% efficacy, relative to maximal triiodothyronine (T3) induction, and with only one of those compounds reaching ≥20% efficacy. One common class of compounds positive in the agonist assays were retinoids such as all-trans retinoic acid, which are likely acting via the retinoid-X receptor, the heterodimer partner with the TR. Five potential TR antagonists were identified, including the antiallergy drug tranilast and the anxiolytic drug SB 205384 but also some cytotoxic compounds like 5-fluorouracil. None of the inactive compounds were structurally related to T3, nor had been reported elsewhere to be thyroid hormone disruptors, so false negatives were not detected. None of the low potency (>100µM) TR agonists resembled T3 or T4, thus these may not bind directly in the ligand-binding pocket of the receptor. For TR agonists, in the qHTS, a hit cut-off of ≥20% efficacy at 100 µM may avoid identification of positives with low or no physiological relevance. The miniaturized GH3.TRE-Luc assay offers a promising addition to the in vitro test battery for endocrine disruption, and given the low percentage of compounds testing positive, its high-throughput nature is an important advantage for future toxicological screening.
doi:10.2174/2213988501408010036
PMCID: PMC3999704  PMID: 24772387
Endocrine disruption; pituitary cells; quantitative high-throughput screening; thyroid hormone receptor; reporter gene assay; retinoid-X receptor.
9.  Perspectives on Validation of High-Throughput Assays Supporting 21st Century Toxicity Testing1 
ALTEX  2013;30(1):51-56.
Summary
In vitro, high-throughput screening (HTS) assays are seeing increasing use in toxicity testing. HTS assays can simultaneously test many chemicals, but have seen limited use in the regulatory arena, in part because of the need to undergo rigorous, time-consuming formal validation. Here we discuss streamlining the validation process, specifically for prioritization applications in which HTS assays are used to identify a high-concern subset of a collection of chemicals. The high-concern chemicals could then be tested sooner rather than later in standard guideline bioassays. The streamlined validation process would continue to ensure the reliability and relevance of assays for this application. We discuss the following practical guidelines: (1) follow current validation practice to the extent possible and practical; (2) make increased use of reference compounds to better demonstrate assay reliability and relevance; (3) deemphasize the need for cross-laboratory testing, and; (4) implement a web-based, transparent and expedited peer review process.
PMCID: PMC3934015  PMID: 23338806
Validation; in vitro; high-throughput screening
10.  Chemical signatures and new drug targets for gametocytocidal drug development 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:3743.
Control of parasite transmission is critical for the eradication of malaria. However, most antimalarial drugs are not active against P. falciparum gametocytes, responsible for the spread of malaria. Consequently, patients can remain infectious for weeks after the clearance of asexual parasites and clinical symptoms. Here we report the identification of 27 potent gametocytocidal compounds (IC50 < 1 μM) from screening 5,215 known drugs and compounds. All these compounds were active against three strains of gametocytes with different drug sensitivities and geographical origins, 3D7, HB3 and Dd2. Cheminformatic analysis revealed chemical signatures for P. falciparum sexual and asexual stages indicative of druggability and suggesting potential targets. Torin 2, a top lead compound (IC50 = 8 nM against gametocytes in vitro), completely blocked oocyst formation in a mouse model of transmission. These results provide critical new leads and potential targets to expand the repertoire of malaria transmission-blocking reagents.
doi:10.1038/srep03743
PMCID: PMC3894558  PMID: 24434750
11.  Identification of Potent and Selective Diphenylpropanamide RORγ Inhibitors 
Retinoic acid-related orphan receptor RORγt plays a pivotal role in the differentiation of TH17 cells. Antagonizing RORγt transcriptional activity is a potential means to treat TH17-related autoimmune diseases. Herein, we describe the identification of a series of diphenylpropanamides as novel and selective RORγ antagonists. Diphenylpropanamide 4n inhibited transcriptional activity of RORγt, but not RORα, in cells. In addition, it suppressed human TH17 cell differentiation at sub-micromolar concentrations.
doi:10.1021/ml300286h
PMCID: PMC3770298  PMID: 24040486
Retinoic acid-related orphan receptor; RORγ antagonist; diphenylpropanamide; TH17-related autoimmune diseases
12.  Identification of Potent and Selective Diphenylpropanamide RORγ Inhibitors 
Retinoic acid-related orphan receptor RORγt plays a pivotal role in the differentiation of TH17 cells. Antagonizing RORγt transcriptional activity is a potential means to treat TH17-related autoimmune diseases. Herein, we describe the identification of a series of diphenylpropanamides as novel and selective RORγ antagonists. Diphenylpropanamide 4n inhibited the transcriptional activity of RORγt, but not RORα, in cells. In addition, it suppressed human TH17 cell differentiation at submicromolar concentrations.
doi:10.1021/ml300286h
PMCID: PMC3770298  PMID: 24040486
retinoic acid-related orphan receptor; RORγ antagonist; diphenylpropanamide; TH17-related autoimmune diseases
13.  A Novel Chordoma Xenograft Allows In Vivo Drug Testing and Reveals the Importance of NF-κB Signaling in Chordoma Biology 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79950.
Chordoma is a rare primary bone malignancy that arises in the skull base, spine and sacrum and originates from remnants of the notochord. These tumors are typically resistant to conventional chemotherapy, and to date there are no FDA-approved agents to treat chordoma. The lack of in vivo models of chordoma has impeded the development of new therapies for this tumor. Primary tumor from a sacral chordoma was xenografted into NOD/SCID/IL-2R γ-null mice. The xenograft is serially transplantable and was characterized by both gene expression analysis and whole genome SNP genotyping. The NIH Chemical Genomics Center performed high-throughput screening of 2,816 compounds using two established chordoma cell lines, U-CH1 and U-CH2B. The screen yielded several compounds that showed activity and two, sunitinib and bortezomib, were tested in the xenograft. Both agents slowed the growth of the xenograft tumor. Sensitivity to an inhibitor of IκB, as well as inhibition of an NF-κB gene expression signature demonstrated the importance of NF-κB signaling for chordoma growth. This serially transplantable chordoma xenograft is thus a practical model to study chordomas and perform in vivo preclinical drug testing.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0079950
PMCID: PMC3819300  PMID: 24223206
14.  Prediction of Cytochrome P450 Profiles of Environmental Chemicals with QSAR Models Built from Drug-like Molecules 
Molecular informatics  2012;31(11-12):783-792.
The human cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzyme family is involved in the biotransformation of many xenobiotics. As part of the U.S. Tox21 Phase I effort, we profiled the CYP activity of approximately three thousand compounds, primarily those of environmental concern, against human CYP1A2, CYP2C19, CYP2C9, CYP2D6, and CYP3A4 isoforms in a quantitative high throughput screening (qHTS) format. In order to evaluate the extent to which computational models built from a drug-like library screened in these five CYP assays under the same conditions can accurately predict the outcome of an environmental compound library, five support vector machines (SVM) models built from over 17,000 drug-like compounds were challenged to predict the CYP activities of the Tox21 compound collection. Although a large fraction of the test compounds fall outside of the applicability domain (AD) of the models, as measured by k-nearest neighbor (k-NN) similarities, the predictions were largely accurate for CYP1A2, CYP2C9, and CYP3A4 ioszymes with area under the receiver operator characteristic curves (AUC-ROC) ranging between 0.82 and 0.84. The lower predictive power of the CYP2C19 model (AUC-ROC = 0.76) is caused by experimental errors and that of the CYP2D6 model (AUC-ROC = 0.76) can be rescued by rebalancing the training data. Our results demonstrate that decomposing molecules into atom types enhanced the coverage of the AD and that computational models built from drug-like molecules can be used to predict the ability of non-drug like compounds to interact with these CYPs.
doi:10.1002/minf.201200065
PMCID: PMC3583379  PMID: 23459712
Human CYPs; QSAR models; Predictive Capacity; SVM; Predictive Toxicology
15.  A Structure Based Model for the Prediction of Phospholipidosis Induction Potential of Small Molecules 
Drug-induced phospholipidosis (PLD), characterized by an intracellular accumulation of phospholipids and formation of concentric lamellar bodies, has raised concerns in the drug discovery community, due to its potential adverse effects. To evaluate the PLD induction potential, 4,161 non-redundant drug-like molecules from the National Institutes of Health Chemical Genomics Center (NCGC) Pharmaceutical Collection (NPC), the Library of Pharmacologically Active Compounds (LOPAC) and the Tocris Biosciences collection were screened in a quantitative high-throughput screening (qHTS) format. The potential of drug-lipid complex formation can be linked directly to the structures of drug molecules, and many PLD inducing drugs were found to share common structural features. Support vector machine (SVM) models were constructed by using customized atom types or Molecular Operating Environment (MOE) 2D descriptors as structural descriptors. Either the compounds from LOPAC or randomly selected from the entire dataset were used as the training set. The impact of training data with biased structural features and the impact of molecule descriptors emphasizing whole-molecule properties or detailed functional groups at the atom level on model performance were analyzed and discussed. Rebalancing strategies were applied to improve the predictive power of the SVM models. Using the under-sampling method, the consensus model using one third of the compounds randomly selected from the data set as the training set achieved high accuracy of 0.90 in predicting the remaining two thirds of the compounds constituting the test set, as measured by the area under the receiver operator characteristic curve (AUC-ROC).
doi:10.1021/ci3001875
PMCID: PMC3484221  PMID: 22725677
phospholipidosis; computation toxicology; QSAR; SVM; qHTS
16.  Synthesis and Evaluation of Quinazolin-4-ones as Hypoxia-inducible Factor-1α Inhibitors 
Quinazolin-4-one 1 was identified as an inhibitor of the HIF-1α transcriptional factor from a high-throughput screen. HIF-1α up-regulation is common in many cancer cells. In this paper, we describe an efficient one-pot sequential reaction for the synthesis of quinazolin-4-one 1 analogues. The structure-activity relationship (SAR) study led to the 5-fold more potent analogue, 16.
doi:10.1016/j.bmcl.2011.07.043
PMCID: PMC3681418  PMID: 21831635
hypoxia-inducible factor-1α; quinazolin-4-ones; parallel synthesis
17.  Identification of repurposed small molecule drugs for chordoma therapy 
Cancer Biology & Therapy  2013;14(7):638-647.
Chordoma is a rare, slow growing malignant tumor arising from remnants of the fetal notochord. Surgery is the first choice for chordoma treatment, followed by radiotherapy, although postoperative complications remain significant. Recurrence of the disease occurs frequently due to the anatomy of the tumor location and violation of the tumor margins at the initial surgery. Currently, there are no effective drugs available for patients with chordoma. Due to the rarity of the disease, there is limited opportunity to test agents in clinical trials and no concerted effort to develop agents for chordoma in the pharmaceutical industry. To rapidly and efficiently identify small molecules that inhibit chordoma cell growth, we screened the NCGC Pharmaceutical Collection (NPC) containing approximately 2800 clinically approved and investigational drugs at 15 different concentrations in chordoma cell lines, U-CH1 and U-CH2. We identified a group of drugs including bortezomib, 17-AAG, digitoxin, staurosporine, digoxin, rubitecan, and trimetrexate that inhibited chordoma cell growth, with potencies from 10 to 370 nM in U-CH1 cells, but less potently in U-CH2 cells. Most of these drugs also induced caspase 3/7 activity with a similar rank order as the cytotoxic effect on U-CH1 cells. Cantharidin, digoxin, digitoxin, staurosporine, and bortezomib showed similar inhibitory effect on cell lines and 3 primary chordoma cell cultures. The combination treatment of bortezomib with topoisomerase I and II inhibitors increased the therapeutic potency in U-CH2 and patient-derived primary cultures. Our results provide information useful for repurposing currently approved drugs for chordoma and potential approach of combination therapy.
doi:10.4161/cbt.24596
PMCID: PMC3742493  PMID: 23792643
chordoma; NCGC Pharmaceutical Collection; cell viability; caspase 3/7; U-CH1; U-CH2; qHTS
18.  Paradigm Shift in Toxicity Testing and Modeling 
The AAPS Journal  2012;14(3):473-480.
The limitations of traditional toxicity testing characterized by high-cost animal models with low-throughput readouts, inconsistent responses, ethical issues, and extrapolability to humans call for alternative strategies for chemical risk assessment. A new strategy using in vitro human cell-based assays has been designed to identify key toxicity pathways and molecular mechanisms leading to the prediction of an in vivo response. The emergence of quantitative high-throughput screening (qHTS) technology has proved to be an efficient way to decompose complex toxicological end points to specific pathways of targeted organs. In addition, qHTS has made a significant impact on computational toxicology in two aspects. First, the ease of mechanism of action identification brought about by in vitro assays has enhanced the simplicity and effectiveness of machine learning, and second, the high-throughput nature and high reproducibility of qHTS have greatly improved the data quality and increased the quantity of training datasets available for predictive model construction. In this review, the benefits of qHTS routinely used in the US Tox21 program will be highlighted. Quantitative structure–activity relationships models built on traditional in vivo data and new qHTS data will be compared and analyzed. In conjunction with the transition from the pilot phase to the production phase of the Tox21 program, more qHTS data will be made available that will enrich the data pool for predictive toxicology. It is perceivable that new in silico toxicity models based on high-quality qHTS data will achieve unprecedented reliability and robustness, thus becoming a valuable tool for risk assessment and drug discovery.
doi:10.1208/s12248-012-9358-1
PMCID: PMC3385826  PMID: 22528508
computational toxicology; qHTS; risk assessment; Tox21
19.  Quantitative High-Throughput Screening for Chemical Toxicity in a Population-Based In Vitro Model 
Toxicological Sciences  2012;126(2):578-588.
A shift in toxicity testing from in vivo to in vitro may efficiently prioritize compounds, reveal new mechanisms, and enable predictive modeling. Quantitative high-throughput screening (qHTS) is a major source of data for computational toxicology, and our goal in this study was to aid in the development of predictive in vitro models of chemical-induced toxicity, anchored on interindividual genetic variability. Eighty-one human lymphoblast cell lines from 27 Centre d’Etude du Polymorphisme Humain trios were exposed to 240 chemical substances (12 concentrations, 0.26nM–46.0μM) and evaluated for cytotoxicity and apoptosis. qHTS screening in the genetically defined population produced robust and reproducible results, which allowed for cross-compound, cross-assay, and cross-individual comparisons. Some compounds were cytotoxic to all cell types at similar concentrations, whereas others exhibited interindividual differences in cytotoxicity. Specifically, the qHTS in a population-based human in vitro model system has several unique aspects that are of utility for toxicity testing, chemical prioritization, and high-throughput risk assessment. First, standardized and high-quality concentration-response profiling, with reproducibility confirmed by comparison with previous experiments, enables prioritization of chemicals for variability in interindividual range in cytotoxicity. Second, genome-wide association analysis of cytotoxicity phenotypes allows exploration of the potential genetic determinants of interindividual variability in toxicity. Furthermore, highly significant associations identified through the analysis of population-level correlations between basal gene expression variability and chemical-induced toxicity suggest plausible mode of action hypotheses for follow-up analyses. We conclude that as the improved resolution of genetic profiling can now be matched with high-quality in vitro screening data, the evaluation of the toxicity pathways and the effects of genetic diversity are now feasible through the use of human lymphoblast cell lines.
doi:10.1093/toxsci/kfs023
PMCID: PMC3307611  PMID: 22268004
chemical cytotoxicity; apoptosis; HapMap; lymphoblasts; qHTS
20.  A Class of Tricyclic Compounds Blocking Malaria Parasite Oocyst Development and Transmission 
Malaria is a deadly infectious disease in many tropical and subtropical countries. Previous efforts to eradicate malaria have failed, largely due to the emergence of drug-resistant parasites, insecticide-resistant mosquitoes and, in particular, the lack of drugs or vaccines to block parasite transmission. ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters are known to play a role in drug transport, metabolism, and resistance in many organisms, including malaria parasites. To investigate whether a Plasmodium falciparum ABC transporter (Pf14_0244 or PfABCG2) modulates parasite susceptibility to chemical compounds or plays a role in drug resistance, we disrupted the gene encoding PfABCG2, screened the recombinant and the wild-type 3D7 parasites against a library containing 2,816 drugs approved for human or animal use, and identified an antihistamine (ketotifen) that became less active against the PfABCG2-disrupted parasite in culture. In addition to some activity against asexual stages and gametocytes, ketotifen was highly potent in blocking oocyst development of P. falciparum and the rodent parasite Plasmodium yoelii in mosquitoes. Tests of structurally related tricyclic compounds identified additional compounds with similar activities in inhibiting transmission. Additionally, ketotifen appeared to have some activity against relapse of Plasmodium cynomolgi infection in rhesus monkeys. Further clinical evaluation of ketotifen and related compounds, including synthetic new derivatives, in blocking malaria transmission may provide new weapons for the current effort of malaria eradication.
doi:10.1128/AAC.00920-12
PMCID: PMC3535893  PMID: 23129054
21.  Using in Vitro High Throughput Screening Assays to Identify Potential Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals 
Background: Over the past 20 years, an increased focus on detecting environmental chemicals that pose a risk of adverse effects due to endocrine disruption has driven the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP). Thousands of chemicals are subject to the EDSP; thus, processing these chemicals using current test batteries could require millions of dollars and decades. A need for increased throughput and efficiency motivated the development of methods using in vitro high throughput screening (HTS) assays to prioritize chemicals for EDSP Tier 1 screening (T1S).
Objective: In this study we used U.S. EPA ToxCast HTS assays for estrogen, androgen, steroidogenic, and thyroid-disrupting mechanisms to classify compounds and compare ToxCast results to in vitro and in vivo data from EDSP T1S assays.
Method: We implemented an iterative model that optimized the ability of endocrine-related HTS assays to predict components of EDSP T1S and related results. Balanced accuracy was used as a measure of model performance.
Results: ToxCast estrogen receptor and androgen receptor assays predicted the results of relevant EDSP T1S assays with balanced accuracies of 0.91 (p < 0.001) and 0.92 (p < 0.001), respectively. Uterotrophic and Hershberger assay results were predicted with balanced accuracies of 0.89 (p < 0.001) and 1 (p < 0.001), respectively. Models for steroidogenic and thyroid-related effects could not be developed with the currently published ToxCast data.
Conclusions: Overall, results suggest that current ToxCast assays can accurately identify chemicals with potential to interact with the estrogenic and androgenic pathways, and could help prioritize chemicals for EDSP T1S assays.
doi:10.1289/ehp.1205065
PMCID: PMC3546348  PMID: 23052129
androgen; endocrine; estrogen; high throughput; in vitro; ToxCast
22.  Predictive Models for Cytochrome P450 Isozymes Based on Quantitative High Throughput Screening Data 
The human cytochrome P450 (CYP450) isozymes are the most important enzymes in the body to metabolize many endogenous and exogenous substances including environmental toxins and therapeutic drugs. Any unnecessary interactions between a small molecule and CYP450 isozymes may raise a potential to disarm the integrity of the protection. Accurately predicting the potential interactions between a small molecule and CYP450 isozymes is highly desirable for assessing the metabolic stability and toxicity of the molecule. The National Institutes of Health Chemical Genomics Center (NCGC) has screened a collection of over seventeen thousand compounds against the five major isozymes of CYP450 (1A2, 2C9, 2C19, 2D6 and 3A4) in a quantitative high throughput screening (qHTS) format. In this study, we developed support vector classification (SVC) models for these five isozymes using a set of customized generic atom types. The CYP450 datasets were randomly split into equal-sized training and test sets. The optimized SVC models exhibited high predictive power against the test sets for all five CYP450 isozymes with accuracies of 0.93, 0.89, 0.89, 0.85 and 0.87 for 1A2, 2C9, 2C19, 2D6 and 3A4, respectively, as measured by the area under the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves. The important atom types and features extracted from the five models are consistent with the structural preferences for different CYP450 substrates reported in the literature. We also identified novel features with significant discerning power to separate CYP450 actives from inactives. These models can be useful in prioritizing compounds in a drug discovery pipeline, or recognizing the toxic potential of environmental chemicals.
doi:10.1021/ci200311w
PMCID: PMC3200453  PMID: 21905670
23.  Dose-Response Modeling of High-Throughput Screening Data 
Journal of biomolecular screening  2009;14(10):1216-1227.
The National Toxicology Program is developing a high throughput screening (HTS) program to set testing priorities for compounds of interest, to identify mechanisms of action, and potentially to develop predictive models for human toxicity. This program will generate extensive data on the activity of large numbers of chemicals in a wide variety of biochemical-and cell-based assays. The first step in relating patterns of response among batteries of HTS assays to in vivo toxicity is to distinguish between positive and negative compounds in individual assays. Here, we report on a statistical approach developed to identify compounds positive or negative in a HTS cytotoxicity assay based on data collected from screening 1353 compounds for concentration-response effects in nine human and four rodent cell types. In this approach, we develop methods to normalize the data (removing bias due to the location of the compound on the 1536-well plates used in the assay) and to analyze for concentration-response relationships. Various statistical tests for identifying significant concentration-response relationships and for addressing reproducibility are developed and presented.
doi:10.1177/1087057109349355
PMCID: PMC3471146  PMID: 19828774
high-throughput screening; dose-response; statistical modeling; viability assay
24.  Chemical genomic profiling for antimalarial therapies, response signatures and molecular targets 
Science (New York, N.y.)  2011;333(6043):724-729.
Malaria remains a devastating disease largely because of widespread drug resistance. New drugs and a better understanding of the mechanisms of drug action and resistance are essential for fulfilling the promise of eradicating malaria. Using high-throughput chemical screening and genome-wide association analysis, we identified 32 highly active compounds and genetic loci and genes associated with differential chemical phenotypes (DCPs), defined as ≥5-fold differences in half-maximum inhibitor concentration (IC50) between parasite lines. Chromosomal loci associated with 49 DCPs were confirmed by linkage analysis and tests of genetically modified parasites, including three genes that were linked to 96% of the DCPs. Drugs whose responses mapped to wild type or mutant pfcrt alleles were tested in combination in vitro and in vivo, yielding promising new leads for antimalarial treatments.
doi:10.1126/science.1205216
PMCID: PMC3396183  PMID: 21817045
Plasmodium falciparum; high-throughput screening; genetic mapping; chemical genomics; phenotype
25.  Profiling Environmental Chemicals for Activity in the Antioxidant Response Element Signaling Pathway Using a High Throughput Screening Approach 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2012;120(8):1150-1156.
Background: Oxidative stress has been implicated in the pathogenesis of a variety of diseases ranging from cancer to neurodegeneration, highlighting the need to identify chemicals that can induce this effect. The antioxidant response element (ARE) signaling pathway plays an important role in the amelioration of oxidative stress. Thus, assays that detect the up-regulation of this pathway could be useful for identifying chemicals that induce oxidative stress.
Objectives: We used cell-based reporter methods and informatics tools to efficiently screen a large collection of environmental chemicals and identify compounds that induce oxidative stress.
Methods: We utilized two cell-based ARE assay reporters, β-lactamase and luciferase, to screen a U.S. National Toxicology Program 1,408-compound library (NTP 1408, which contains 1,340 unique compounds) for their ability to induce oxidative stress in HepG2 cells using quantitative high throughput screening (qHTS).
Results: Roughly 3% (34 of 1,340) of the unique compounds demonstrated activity across both cell-based assays. Based on biological activity and structure–activity relationship profiles, we selected 50 compounds for retesting in the two ARE assays and in an additional follow-up assay that employed a mutated ARE linked to β-lactamase. Using this strategy, we identified 30 compounds that demonstrated activity in the ARE-bla and ARE-luc assays and were able to determine structural features conferring compound activity across assays.
Conclusions: Our results support the robustness of using two different cell-based approaches for identifying compounds that induce ARE signaling. Together, these methods are useful for prioritizing chemicals for further in-depth mechanism-based toxicity testing.
doi:10.1289/ehp.1104709
PMCID: PMC3440086  PMID: 22551509
ARE; Nrf2; oxidative stress; qHTS; toxicity; Tox21

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