Mechanism-driven modeling of chemical hepatotoxicity using structural alerts and an in vitro screening assay

Xuelian Jia, Xia Wen, Daniel P. Russo, Lauren M. Aleksunes, Hao Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Traditional experimental approaches to evaluate hepatotoxicity are expensive and time-consuming. As an advanced framework of risk assessment, adverse outcome pathways (AOPs) describe the sequence of molecular and cellular events underlying chemical toxicities. We aimed to develop an AOP that can be used to predict hepatotoxicity by leveraging computational modeling and in vitro assays. We curated 869 compounds with known hepatotoxicity classifications as a modeling set and extracted assay data from PubChem. The antioxidant response element (ARE) assay, which quantifies transcriptional responses to oxidative stress, showed a high correlation to hepatotoxicity (PPV=0.82). Next, we developed quantitative structure-activity relationship (QSAR) models to predict ARE activation for compounds lacking testing results. Potential toxicity alerts were identified and used to construct a mechanistic hepatotoxicity model. For experimental validation, 16 compounds in the modeling set and 12 new compounds were selected and tested using an in-house ARE-luciferase assay in HepG2-C8 cells. The mechanistic model showed good hepatotoxicity predictivity (accuracy = 0.82) for these compounds. Potential false positive hepatotoxicity predictions by only using ARE results can be corrected by incorporating structural alerts and vice versa. This mechanistic model illustrates a potential toxicity pathway for hepatotoxicity, and this strategy can be expanded to develop predictive models for other complex toxicities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number129193
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
StatePublished - Aug 15 2022
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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