Quantitative high-throughput screening for chemical toxicity in a population-based in vitro model

Eric F. Lock, Nour Abdo, Ruili Huang, Menghang Xia, Oksana Kosyk, Shannon H. O'Shea, Yi Hui Zhou, Alexander Sedykh, Alexander Tropsha, Christopher P. Austin, Raymond R. Tice, Fred A. Wright, Ivan Rusyn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)578-588
Number of pages11
JournalToxicological Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported, in part, by the Intramural Research Programs of the National Toxicology Program, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences interagency agreement Y2-ES-7020-01 and by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (R01 ES015241) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) (RD83382501).


  • Apoptosis
  • Chemical cytotoxicity
  • HapMap
  • Lymphoblasts
  • QHTS


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