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1.  Identification of genotoxic compounds using isogenic DNA repair deficient DT40 cell lines on a quantitative high throughput screening platform 
Mutagenesis  2015;31(1):69-81.
DNA repair pathways play a critical role in maintaining cellular homeostasis by repairing DNA damage induced by endogenous processes and xenobiotics, including environmental chemicals. Induction of DNA damage may lead to genomic instability, disruption of cellular homeostasis and potentially tumours. Isogenic chicken DT40 B-lymphocyte cell lines deficient in DNA repair pathways can be used to identify genotoxic compounds and aid in characterising the nature of the induced DNA damage. As part of the US Tox21 program, we previously optimised several different DT40 isogenic clones on a high-throughput screening platform and confirmed the utility of this approach for detecting genotoxicants by measuring differential cytotoxicity in wild-type and DNA repair-deficient clones following chemical exposure. In the study reported here, we screened the Tox21 10K compound library against two isogenic DNA repair-deficient DT40 cell lines (KU70 −/−/RAD54 −/− and REV3 −/−) and the wild-type cell line using a cell viability assay that measures intracellular adenosine triphosphate levels. KU70 and RAD54 are genes associated with DNA double-strand break repair processes, and REV3 is associated with translesion DNA synthesis pathways. Active compounds identified in the primary screening included many well-known genotoxicants (e.g. adriamycin, melphalan) and several compounds previously untested for genotoxicity. A subset of compounds was further evaluated by assessing their ability to induce micronuclei and phosphorylated H2AX. Using this comprehensive approach, three compounds with previously undefined genotoxicity—2-oxiranemethanamine, AD-67 and tetraphenylolethane glycidyl ether—were identified as genotoxic. These results demonstrate the utility of this approach for identifying and prioritising compounds that may damage DNA.
PMCID: PMC4723671  PMID: 26243743
2.  Identification of HDAC inhibitors using a cell-based HDAC I/II assay 
Journal of biomolecular screening  2016;21(6):643-652.
Histone deacetylases (HDACs) are a class of epigenetic enzymes that regulate gene expression by histone deacetylation. Altered HDAC function has been linked to cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, making HDACs popular therapeutic targets. In this study, we describe a screening approach for identification of compounds that inhibit endogenous class I and II HDACs. A homogeneous, luminogenic HDAC I/II assay was optimized in a 1536-well plate format in several human cell lines including HCT116 and human neural stem cells. The assay confirmed 37 known HDAC inhibitors from two libraries of known epigenetics-active compounds. Using the assay, we identified a group of potential HDAC inhibitors by screening the NCATS Pharmaceutical Collection (NPC) of 2,527 small molecule drugs. The selected compounds showed similar HDAC I/II inhibitory potency and efficacy values in both HCT116 and neural stem cells. Several previously unidentified HDAC inhibitors were further evaluated and profiled for their selectivity against a panel of ten HDAC I/II isoforms using fluorogenic HDAC biochemical assays. In summary, our results show that several novel HDAC inhibitors including nafamostat and piceatannol have been identified using the HDAC I/II cell-based assay, and multiple cell types have been validated for high-throughput screening of large chemical libraries.
PMCID: PMC4917448  PMID: 26858181
Histone deacetylase; epigenetics; cancer; neurodegenerative disease; qHTS
3.  Integrated Model of Chemical Perturbations of a Biological Pathway Using 18 In Vitro High-Throughput Screening Assays for the Estrogen Receptor 
Toxicological Sciences  2015;148(1):137-154.
We demonstrate a computational network model that integrates 18 in vitro, high-throughput screening assays measuring estrogen receptor (ER) binding, dimerization, chromatin binding, transcriptional activation, and ER-dependent cell proliferation. The network model uses activity patterns across the in vitro assays to predict whether a chemical is an ER agonist or antagonist, or is otherwise influencing the assays through a manner dependent on the physics and chemistry of the technology platform (“assay interference”). The method is applied to a library of 1812 commercial and environmental chemicals, including 45 ER positive and negative reference chemicals. Among the reference chemicals, the network model correctly identified the agonists and antagonists with the exception of very weak compounds whose activity was outside the concentration range tested. The model agonist score also correlated with the expected potency class of the active reference chemicals. Of the 1812 chemicals evaluated, 111 (6.1%) were predicted to be strongly ER active in agonist or antagonist mode. This dataset and model were also used to begin a systematic investigation of assay interference. The most prominent cause of false-positive activity (activity in an assay that is likely not due to interaction of the chemical with ER) is cytotoxicity. The model provides the ability to prioritize a large set of important environmental chemicals with human exposure potential for additional in vivo endocrine testing. Finally, this model is generalizable to any molecular pathway for which there are multiple upstream and downstream assays available.
PMCID: PMC4635633  PMID: 26272952
estrogen receptor; EDSP; high-throughput screening; In vitro; prioritization; biological modeling
4.  Application of dynamic topic models to toxicogenomics data 
BMC Bioinformatics  2016;17(Suppl 13):368.
All biological processes are inherently dynamic. Biological systems evolve transiently or sustainably according to sequential time points after perturbation by environment insults, drugs and chemicals. Investigating the temporal behavior of molecular events has been an important subject to understand the underlying mechanisms governing the biological system in response to, such as, drug treatment. The intrinsic complexity of time series data requires appropriate computational algorithms for data interpretation. In this study, we propose, for the first time, the application of dynamic topic models (DTM) for analyzing time-series gene expression data.
A large time-series toxicogenomics dataset was studied. It contains over 3144 microarrays of gene expression data corresponding to rat livers treated with 131 compounds (most are drugs) at two doses (control and high dose) in a repeated schedule containing four separate time points (4-, 8-, 15- and 29-day). We analyzed, with DTM, the topics (consisting of a set of genes) and their biological interpretations over these four time points. We identified hidden patterns embedded in this time-series gene expression profiles. From the topic distribution for compound-time condition, a number of drugs were successfully clustered by their shared mode-of-action such as PPARɑ agonists and COX inhibitors. The biological meaning underlying each topic was interpreted using diverse sources of information such as functional analysis of the pathways and therapeutic uses of the drugs. Additionally, we found that sample clusters produced by DTM are much more coherent in terms of functional categories when compared to traditional clustering algorithms.
We demonstrated that DTM, a text mining technique, can be a powerful computational approach for clustering time-series gene expression profiles with the probabilistic representation of their dynamic features along sequential time frames. The method offers an alternative way for uncovering hidden patterns embedded in time series gene expression profiles to gain enhanced understanding of dynamic behavior of gene regulation in the biological system.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12859-016-1225-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC5073961  PMID: 27766956
Dynamic topic model (DTM); Times-series gene expression; Toxicogenomics; TG-GATEs; Clustering; Topic modeling; Latent Dirichlet model
5.  Cell-Based High-Throughput Screening for Aromatase Inhibitors in the Tox21 10K Library 
Toxicological Sciences  2015;147(2):446-457.
Multiple mechanisms exist for endocrine disruption; one nonreceptor-mediated mechanism is via effects on aromatase, an enzyme critical for maintaining the normal in vivo balance of androgens and estrogens. We adapted the AroER tri-screen 96-well assay to 1536-well format to identify potential aromatase inhibitors (AIs) in the U.S. Tox21 10K compound library. In this assay, screening with compound alone identifies estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) agonists, screening in the presence of testosterone (T) identifies AIs and/or ERα antagonists, and screening in the presence of 17β-estradiol (E2) identifies ERα antagonists. Screening the Tox-21 library in the presence of T resulted in finding 302 potential AIs. These compounds, along with 31 known AI actives and inactives, were rescreened using all 3 assay formats. Of the 333 compounds tested, 113 (34%; 63 actives, 50 marginal actives) were considered to be potential AIs independent of cytotoxicity and ER antagonism activity. Structure-activity analysis suggested the presence of both conventional (eg, 1, 2, 4, - triazole class) and novel AI structures. Due to their novel structures, 14 of the 63 potential AI actives, including both drugs and fungicides, were selected for confirmation in the biochemical tritiated water-release aromatase assay. Ten compounds were active in the assay; the remaining 4 were only active in high-throughput screen assay, but with low efficacy. To further characterize these 10 novel AIs, we investigated their binding characteristics. The AroER tri-screen, in high-throughput format, accurately and efficiently identified chemicals in a large and diverse chemical library that selectively interact with aromatase.
PMCID: PMC4592355  PMID: 26141389
AroER tri-screen; Tox21 10K library; environmental chemicals; quantitative high throughput screening; aromatase enzyme assay
6.  Maduramicin Rapidly Eliminates Malaria Parasites and Potentiates the Gametocytocidal Activity of the Pyrazoleamide PA21A050 
New strategies targeting Plasmodium falciparum gametocytes, the sexual-stage parasites that are responsible for malaria transmission, are needed to eradicate this disease. Most commonly used antimalarials are ineffective against P. falciparum gametocytes, allowing patients to continue to be infectious for over a week after asexual parasite clearance. A recent screen for gametocytocidal compounds demonstrated that the carboxylic polyether ionophore maduramicin is active at low nanomolar concentrations against P. falciparum sexual stages. In this study, we showed that maduramicin has an EC50 (effective concentration that inhibits the signal by 50%) of 14.8 nM against late-stage gametocytes and significantly blocks in vivo transmission in a mouse model of malaria transmission. In contrast to other reported gametocytocidal agents, maduramicin acts rapidly in vitro, eliminating gametocytes and asexual schizonts in less than 12 h without affecting uninfected red blood cells (RBCs). Ring stage parasites are cleared by 24 h. Within an hour of drug treatment, 40% of the normally crescent-shaped gametocytes round up and become spherical. The number of round gametocytes increases to >60% by 2 h, even before a change in membrane potential as monitored by MitoProbe DiIC1 (5) is detectable. Maduramicin is not preferentially taken up by gametocyte-infected RBCs compared to uninfected RBCs, suggesting that gametocytes are more sensitive to alterations in cation concentration than RBCs. Moreover, the addition of 15.6 nM maduramicin enhanced the gametocytocidal activity of the pyrazoleamide PA21A050, which is a promising new antimalarial candidate associated with an increase in intracellular Na+ concentration that is proposed to be due to inhibition of PfATP4, a putative Na+ pump. These results underscore the importance of cation homeostasis in sexual as well as asexual intraerythrocytic-stage P. falciparum parasites and the potential of targeting this pathway for drug development.
PMCID: PMC4775975  PMID: 26711768
7.  CERAPP: Collaborative Estrogen Receptor Activity Prediction Project 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2016;124(7):1023-1033.
Humans are exposed to thousands of man-made chemicals in the environment. Some chemicals mimic natural endocrine hormones and, thus, have the potential to be endocrine disruptors. Most of these chemicals have never been tested for their ability to interact with the estrogen receptor (ER). Risk assessors need tools to prioritize chemicals for evaluation in costly in vivo tests, for instance, within the U.S. EPA Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program.
We describe a large-scale modeling project called CERAPP (Collaborative Estrogen Receptor Activity Prediction Project) and demonstrate the efficacy of using predictive computational models trained on high-throughput screening data to evaluate thousands of chemicals for ER-related activity and prioritize them for further testing.
CERAPP combined multiple models developed in collaboration with 17 groups in the United States and Europe to predict ER activity of a common set of 32,464 chemical structures. Quantitative structure–activity relationship models and docking approaches were employed, mostly using a common training set of 1,677 chemical structures provided by the U.S. EPA, to build a total of 40 categorical and 8 continuous models for binding, agonist, and antagonist ER activity. All predictions were evaluated on a set of 7,522 chemicals curated from the literature. To overcome the limitations of single models, a consensus was built by weighting models on scores based on their evaluated accuracies.
Individual model scores ranged from 0.69 to 0.85, showing high prediction reliabilities. Out of the 32,464 chemicals, the consensus model predicted 4,001 chemicals (12.3%) as high priority actives and 6,742 potential actives (20.8%) to be considered for further testing.
This project demonstrated the possibility to screen large libraries of chemicals using a consensus of different in silico approaches. This concept will be applied in future projects related to other end points.
Mansouri K, Abdelaziz A, Rybacka A, Roncaglioni A, Tropsha A, Varnek A, Zakharov A, Worth A, Richard AM, Grulke CM, Trisciuzzi D, Fourches D, Horvath D, Benfenati E, Muratov E, Wedebye EB, Grisoni F, Mangiatordi GF, Incisivo GM, Hong H, Ng HW, Tetko IV, Balabin I, Kancherla J, Shen J, Burton J, Nicklaus M, Cassotti M, Nikolov NG, Nicolotti O, Andersson PL, Zang Q, Politi R, Beger RD, Todeschini R, Huang R, Farag S, Rosenberg SA, Slavov S, Hu X, Judson RS. 2016. CERAPP: Collaborative Estrogen Receptor Activity Prediction Project. Environ Health Perspect 124:1023–1033;
PMCID: PMC4937869  PMID: 26908244
8.  PfCRT and PfMDR1 modulate interactions of artemisinin derivatives and ion channel blockers 
Scientific Reports  2016;6:25379.
Treatment of the symptomatic asexual stage of Plasmodium falciparum relies almost exclusively on artemisinin (ART) combination therapies (ACTs) in endemic regions. ACTs combine ART or its derivative with a long-acting partner drug to maximize efficacy during the typical three-day regimen. Both laboratory and clinical studies have previously demonstrated that the common drug resistance determinants P. falciparum chloroquine resistance transporter (PfCRT) and multidrug resistance transporter (PfMDR1) can modulate the susceptibility to many current antimalarial drugs and chemical compounds. Here we investigated the parasite responses to dihydroartemisinin (DHA) and various Ca2+ and Na+ channel blockers and showed positively correlated responses between DHA and several channel blockers, suggesting potential shared transport pathways or mode of action. Additionally, we demonstrated that PfCRT and PfMDR1 could also significantly modulate the pharmacodynamic interactions of the compounds and that the interactions were influenced by the parasite genetic backgrounds. These results provide important information for better understanding of drug resistance and for assessing the overall impact of drug resistance markers on parasite response to ACTs.
PMCID: PMC4857081  PMID: 27147113
9.  Mechanism Profiling of Hepatotoxicity Caused by Oxidative Stress Using Antioxidant Response Element Reporter Gene Assay Models and Big Data 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2015;124(5):634-641.
Hepatotoxicity accounts for a substantial number of drugs being withdrawn from the market. Using traditional animal models to detect hepatotoxicity is expensive and time-consuming. Alternative in vitro methods, in particular cell-based high-throughput screening (HTS) studies, have provided the research community with a large amount of data from toxicity assays. Among the various assays used to screen potential toxicants is the antioxidant response element beta lactamase reporter gene assay (ARE-bla), which identifies chemicals that have the potential to induce oxidative stress and was used to test > 10,000 compounds from the Tox21 program.
The ARE-bla computational model and HTS data from a big data source (PubChem) were used to profile environmental and pharmaceutical compounds with hepatotoxicity data.
Quantitative structure–activity relationship (QSAR) models were developed based on ARE-bla data. The models predicted the potential oxidative stress response for known liver toxicants when no ARE-bla data were available. Liver toxicants were used as probe compounds to search PubChem Bioassay and generate a response profile, which contained thousands of bioassays (> 10 million data points). By ranking the in vitro–in vivo correlations (IVIVCs), the most relevant bioassay(s) related to hepatotoxicity were identified.
The liver toxicants profile contained the ARE-bla and relevant PubChem assays. Potential toxicophores for well-known toxicants were created by identifying chemical features that existed only in compounds with high IVIVCs.
Profiling chemical IVIVCs created an opportunity to fully explore the source-to-outcome continuum of modern experimental toxicology using cheminformatics approaches and big data sources.
Kim MT, Huang R, Sedykh A, Wang W, Xia M, Zhu H. 2016. Mechanism profiling of hepatotoxicity caused by oxidative stress using antioxidant response element reporter gene assay models and big data. Environ Health Perspect 124:634–641;
PMCID: PMC4858396  PMID: 26383846
10.  Prediction of human population responses to toxic compounds by a collaborative competition 
Nature biotechnology  2015;33(9):933-940.
The ability to computationally predict the effects of toxic compounds on humans could help address the deficiencies of current chemical safety testing. Here, we report the results from a community-based DREAM challenge to predict toxicities of environmental compounds with potential adverse health effects for human populations. We measured the cytotoxicity of 156 compounds in 884 lymphoblastoid cell lines for which genotype and transcriptional data are available as part of the Tox21 1000-Genomes Project. The challenge participants developed algorithms to predict inter-individual variability of toxic response from genomic profiles and population-level cytotoxicity data from structural attributes of the compounds. 179 submitted predictions were evaluated against a blinded experimental dataset. Individual cytotoxicity predictions were better than random, with modest correlations (Pearson’s r<0.28), consistent with complex trait genomic prediction. In contrast, predictions of population-level response to different compounds were higher (r<0.66). The results highlight the possibility of predicting health risks associated with unknown compounds, although risk estimation accuracy remains suboptimal.
PMCID: PMC4568441  PMID: 26258538
11.  Identification of approved and investigational drugs that inhibit hypoxia-inducible factor-1 signaling 
Oncotarget  2016;7(7):8172-8183.
One of the requirements for tumor development is blood supply, most often driven by hypoxia-induced angiogenesis. Hypoxia induces the stabilization of hypoxia-inducible factor-1 alpha (HIF-1α), which induces expression of an angiogenic factor, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). The purpose of this study is to validate a new screening platform combined with orthogonal assays to rapidly identify HIF-1 inhibitors and to evaluate the effectiveness of approved drugs on modulating HIF-1 signaling.
We generated an endogenous HIF-1α–NanoLuc luciferase reporter allele in the human HCT116 colon cancer cell line using genome editing and screened a panel of small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) to 960 druggable targets and approximately 2,500 drugs on a quantitative high-throughput screening (qHTS) platform. Selected compounds were further investigated with secondary assays to confirm their anti-HIF activity and to study their mode of action. The qHTS assay identified over 300 drugs that inhibited HIF-1α-NanoLuc expression. The siRNA screening results supported the effectiveness of several target-specific inhibitors. Moreover, the identified HIF-1 inhibitors, such as mycophenolate mofetil, niclosamide, and trametinib, were able to suppress cancer cell proliferation and angiogenesis. Our study indicates that blocking the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and phosphoinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) pathways effectively inhibits hypoxia-induced HIF-1α accumulation and HIF-1α transactivation and that proteasome inhibitors induce accumulation and decrease transcriptional activity of HIF-1α. These findings underline the importance of developing a battery of robust assay platforms and confirmation studies that focus on endogenous protein targets so that only relevant and reliable data will be taken into pre-clinical and clinical studies.
PMCID: PMC4884984  PMID: 26882567
hypoxia inducible factor; cancer; genome editing; drug; high-throughput screening
12.  A Data Analysis Pipeline Accounting for Artifacts in Tox21 Quantitative High-Throughput Screening Assays 
Journal of biomolecular screening  2015;20(7):887-897.
A main goal of the U.S. Tox21 program is to profile a 10K-compound library for activity against a panel of stress-related and nuclear receptor signaling pathway assays using a quantitative high-throughput screening (qHTS) approach. However, assay artifacts, including nonreproducible signals and assay interference (e.g., autofluorescence), complicate compound activity interpretation. To address these issues, we have developed a data analysis pipeline that includes an updated signal noise–filtering/curation protocol and an assay interference flagging system. To better characterize various types of signals, we adopted a weighted version of the area under the curve (wAUC) to quantify the amount of activity across the tested concentration range in combination with the assay-dependent point-of-departure (POD) concentration. Based on the 32 Tox21 qHTS assays analyzed, we demonstrate that signal profiling using wAUC affords the best reproducibility (Pearson's r = 0.91) in comparison with the POD (0.82) only or the AC50 (i.e., half-maximal activity concentration, 0.81). Among the activity artifacts characterized, cytotoxicity is the major confounding factor; on average, about 8% of Tox21 compounds are affected, whereas autofluorescence affects less than 0.5%. To facilitate data evaluation, we implemented two graphical user interface applications, allowing users to rapidly evaluate the in vitro activity of Tox21 compounds.
PMCID: PMC4568956  PMID: 25904095
qHTS data analysis; in vitro activity profiling; Tox21; concentration-response curve
13.  Identification of Small Molecule Modulators of Gene Transcription with Anticancer Activity 
ACS Chemical Biology  2014;9(11):2603-2611.
Epigenetic regulation of gene expression is essential in many biological processes, and its deregulation contributes to pathology including tumor formation. We used an image-based cell assay that measures the induction of a silenced GFP-estrogen receptor reporter to identify novel classes of small molecules involved in the regulation of gene expression. Using this Locus Derepression assay, we queried 283,122 compounds by quantitative high-throughput screening evaluating compounds at multiple concentrations. After confirmation and independent validation, the Locus Derepression assay identified 19 small molecules as new actives that induce the GFP message over 2-fold. Viability assays demonstrated that 17 of these actives have anti-proliferative activity, and two of them show selectivity for cancer versus patient-matched normal cells and cause unique changes in gene expression patterns in cancer cells by altering histone marks. Hence, these compounds represent chemical tools for understanding the molecular mechanisms of epigenetic control of transcription and for modulating cell growth pathways.
PMCID: PMC4245161  PMID: 25188650
14.  Identification of novel PARP inhibitors using a cell-based TDP1 inhibitory assay in a quantitative high-throughput screening platform 
DNA repair  2014;21:177-182.
Anti-cancer topoisomerase I (Top1) inhibitors (camptothecin and its clinical derivatives irinotecan and topotecan, and the indenoisoquinolines) induce lethal DNA lesions by stabilizing Top1-DNA cleavage complex (Top1cc). These lesions are repaired by parallel repair pathways including the tyrosyl-DNA phosphodiesterase 1 (TDP1)-related pathway and homologous recombination. As TDP1-deficient cells in vertebrates are hypersensitive to Top1 inhibitors, small molecules inhibiting TDP1 should augment the cytotoxicity of Top1 inhibitors. We developed a cell-based high-throughput screening assay for the discovery of inhibitors for human TDP1 using a TDP1-deficient chicken DT40 cell line (TDP1-/-) complemented with human TDP1 (hTDP1). Any compounds showing a synergistic effect with the Top1 inhibitor camptothecin (CPT) in hTDP1 cells should either be a TDP1 inhibitor or an inhibitor of alternate repair pathways for Top1cc. We screened the 400,000-compound Small Molecule Library Repository (SMLR, NIH Molecular Libraries) against hTDP1 cells in the absence or presence of CPT. After confirmation in a secondary screen using both hTDP1 and TDP1-/- cells in the absence or presence of CPT, five compounds were confirmed as potential TDP1 pathway inhibitors. All five compounds showed synergistic effect with CPT in hTDP1 cells, but not in TDP1-/- cells, indicating that the compounds inhibited a TDP1-related repair pathway. Yet, in vitro gel-based assay revealed that the five compounds did not inhibit TDP1 catalytic activity directly. We tested the compounds for their ability to inhibit poly(ADP-ribose)polymerase (PARP) because PARP inhibitors are known to potentiate the cytotoxicity of CPT by inhibiting the recruitment of TDP1 to Top1cc. Accordingly, we found that the five compounds inhibit PARP activity by ELISA and Western blotting. We identified the most potent compound (Cpd1) that offers characteristic close to veliparib, a leading clinical PARP inhibitor. Cpd1 may represent a new scaffold for the development of PARP inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC4125495  PMID: 24794403
TDP1; PARP; topoisomerases; drug discovery; combination therapy
15.  Detection of Phospholipidosis Induction: A Cell-Based Assay in High-Throughput and High–Content Format 
Drug-induced phospholipidosis is characterized by the accumulation of intracellular phospholipids in cells exposed to cationic amphiphilic drugs. The appearance of unicentric or multicentric multi-lamellar bodies viewed under electron microscope (EM) is the morphological hallmark of phospholipidosis. Although the EM method is the gold standard for detecting cellular phospholipidosis, this method has its drawbacks, including low throughput, high cost, and unsuitability for screening a large chemical library. In this study, a cell-based phospholipidosis assay has been developed using the LipidTOX Red reagent in HepG2 cells and miniaturized into a 1536-well plate format. In order to validate this assay for high throughput screening, the LOPAC library of 1280 compounds was screened on a quantitative high throughput screening platform. A group of known phospholipidosis inducers, such as amiodarone, propranolol, chlorpromazine, desipramine, promazine, clomipramine, and amitriptyline, was identified by the screen, consistent with previous reports. Several novel phospholipidosis inducers including NAN-190, ebastine, GR127935 and cis-(Z)-flupenthixol were identified in this study and confirmed using the EM method. These results demonstrate that this assay can be used to evaluate and profile large numbers of chemicals for drug-induced phospholipidosis.
PMCID: PMC4550094  PMID: 24003057
LipidTOX; phospholipidosis; qHTS
16.  Genome-Wide Interactions of Mouse-Plasmodium yoelii Parasite and Identification of Regulators of Type I Interferon Response 
Cell reports  2015;12(4):661-672.
Invading pathogens trigger specific host responses, an understanding of which might identify genes that function in pathogen recognition and elimination. In this study, we performed trans-species expression quantitative trait locus (ts-eQTL) analysis using genotypes of the Plasmodium yoelii malaria parasite and phenotypes of mouse gene expression. We significantly linked 1,054 host genes to parasite genetic loci (LOD score ≥ 3.0). Using LOD score patterns, which produced results that differed from direct expression level clustering, we grouped host genes that function in related pathways, allowing functional prediction of unknown genes. As a proof of principle, 14 of 15 randomly selected genes predicted to function in type I interferon (IFN-I) responses were experimentally validated using overexpression, shRNA knockdown, viral infection, and/or infection of KO mice. This study demonstrates an effective strategy for studying gene function, establishes a functional gene database, and identifies regulators in IFN-I pathways.
Graphical Abstract
PMCID: PMC4520759  PMID: 26190101
Plasmodium; pathogen-host interaction; innate signaling; microarray; linkage
17.  Novel Phenotypic Outcomes Identified for a Public Collection of Approved Drugs from a Publicly Accessible Panel of Assays 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(7):e0130796.
Phenotypic assays have a proven track record for generating leads that become first-in-class therapies. Whole cell assays that inform on a phenotype or mechanism also possess great potential in drug repositioning studies by illuminating new activities for the existing pharmacopeia. The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) pharmaceutical collection (NPC) is the largest reported collection of approved small molecule therapeutics that is available for screening in a high-throughput setting. Via a wide-ranging collaborative effort, this library was analyzed in the Open Innovation Drug Discovery (OIDD) phenotypic assay modules publicly offered by Lilly. The results of these tests are publically available online at and via the PubChem Database ( (AID 1117321). Phenotypic outcomes for numerous drugs were confirmed, including sulfonylureas as insulin secretagogues and the anti-angiogenesis actions of multikinase inhibitors sorafenib, axitinib and pazopanib. Several novel outcomes were also noted including the Wnt potentiating activities of rotenone and the antifolate class of drugs, and the anti-angiogenic activity of cetaben.
PMCID: PMC4503722  PMID: 26177200
18.  Quantitative High-Throughput Identification of Drugs as Modulators of Human Constitutive Androstane Receptor 
Scientific Reports  2015;5:10405.
The constitutive androstane receptor (CAR, NR1I3) plays a key role in governing the transcription of numerous hepatic genes that involve xenobiotic metabolism/clearance, energy homeostasis, and cell proliferation. Thus, identification of novel human CAR (hCAR) modulators may not only enhance early prediction of drug-drug interactions but also offer potentially novel therapeutics for diseases such as metabolic disorders and cancer. In this study, we have generated a double stable cell line expressing both hCAR and a CYP2B6-driven luciferase reporter for quantitative high-throughput screening (qHTS) of hCAR modulators. Approximately 2800 compounds from the NIH Chemical Genomics Center Pharmaceutical Collection were screened employing both the activation and deactivation modes of the qHTS. Activators (115) and deactivators (152) of hCAR were identified from the primary qHTS, among which 10 agonists and 10 antagonists were further validated in the physiologically relevant human primary hepatocytes for compound-mediated hCAR nuclear translocation and target gene expression. Collectively, our results reveal that hCAR modulators can be efficiently identified through this newly established qHTS assay. Profiling drug collections for hCAR activity would facilitate the prediction of metabolism-based drug-drug interactions, and may lead to the identification of potential novel therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC4438668  PMID: 25993555
19.  Population-Based in Vitro Hazard and Concentration–Response Assessment of Chemicals: The 1000 Genomes High-Throughput Screening Study 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2015;123(5):458-466.
Background: Understanding of human variation in toxicity to environmental chemicals remains limited, so human health risk assessments still largely rely on a generic 10-fold factor (10½ each for toxicokinetics and toxicodynamics) to account for sensitive individuals or subpopulations.
Objectives: We tested a hypothesis that population-wide in vitro cytotoxicity screening can rapidly inform both the magnitude of and molecular causes for interindividual toxicodynamic variability.
Methods: We used 1,086 lymphoblastoid cell lines from the 1000 Genomes Project, representing nine populations from five continents, to assess variation in cytotoxic response to 179 chemicals. Analysis included assessments of population variation and heritability, and genome-wide association mapping, with attention to phenotypic relevance to human exposures.
Results: For about half the tested compounds, cytotoxic response in the 1% most “sensitive” individual occurred at concentrations within a factor of 10½ (i.e., approximately 3) of that in the median individual; however, for some compounds, this factor was > 10. Genetic mapping suggested important roles for variation in membrane and transmembrane genes, with a number of chemicals showing association with SNP rs13120371 in the solute carrier SLC7A11, previously implicated in chemoresistance.
Conclusions: This experimental approach fills critical gaps unaddressed by recent large-scale toxicity testing programs, providing quantitative, experimentally based estimates of human toxicodynamic variability, and also testable hypotheses about mechanisms contributing to interindividual variation.
Citation: Abdo N, Xia M, Brown CC, Kosyk O, Huang R, Sakamuru S, Zhou YH, Jack JR, Gallins P, Xia K, Li Y, Chiu WA, Motsinger-Reif AA, Austin CP, Tice RR, Rusyn I, Wright FA. 2015. Population-based in vitro hazard and concentration–response assessment of chemicals: the 1000 Genomes high-throughput screening study. Environ Health Perspect 123:458–466;
PMCID: PMC4421772  PMID: 25622337
20.  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;
PMCID: PMC4286281  PMID: 25302578
21.  Quantitative High-Throughput Profiling of Environmental Chemicals and Drugs that Modulate Farnesoid X Receptor 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:6437.
The farnesoid X receptor (FXR) regulates the homeostasis of bile acids, lipids, and glucose. Because endogenous chemicals bind and activate FXR, it is important to examine which xenobiotic compounds would disrupt normal receptor function. We used a cell-based human FXR β-lactamase (Bla) reporter gene assay to profile the Tox21 10K compound collection of environmental chemicals and drugs. Structure-activity relationships of FXR-active compounds revealed by this screening were then compared against the androgen receptor, estrogen receptor α, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors δ and γ, and the vitamin D receptor. We identified several FXR-active structural classes including anthracyclines, benzimidazoles, dihydropyridines, pyrethroids, retinoic acids, and vinca alkaloids. Microtubule inhibitors potently decreased FXR reporter gene activity. Pyrethroids specifically antagonized FXR transactivation. Anthracyclines affected reporter activity in all tested assays, suggesting non-specific activity. These results provide important information to prioritize chemicals for further investigation, and suggest possible modes of action of compounds in FXR signaling.
PMCID: PMC4894417  PMID: 25257666
22.  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.
PMCID: PMC4154066  PMID: 23895456
mitochondrial membrane potential assay; mitochondrial toxicity; NTP 1408 compound library; oxygen consumption rate; qHTS; Tox21 collaboration
23.  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.
PMCID: PMC3736554  PMID: 23856051
hERG; phospholipidosis; qHTS
24.  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.
PMCID: PMC3771082  PMID: 23732176
10K compound library; in vitro assays; quantitative high-throughput screening; robotic platform; Tox21 collaboration; toxicity testing
25.  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.
PMCID: PMC4092345  PMID: 25012808

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