A recently published study by ToxStrategies scientists in Toxicological Sciences aimed to contribute to the understanding of Cr(VI) MOA by evaluating high-throughput screening (HTS) data and other in vitro data relevant to Cr(VI), and comparing these findings to robust in vivo data, including transcriptomic profiles in target tissues. Evaluation of Tox21 HTS data for Cr(VI) identified 11 active assay endpoints relevant to the Ten Key Characteristics of Carcinogens (TKCCs) that have been proposed by other investigators. Four of these endpoints were related to TP53 (tumor protein 53) activation mapping to genotoxicity (KCC#2), and four were related to cell death/proliferation (KCC#10). HTS results were consistent with other in vitro data from the Comparative Toxicogenomics Database. In vitro responses were compared to in vivo transcriptomic responses in the most sensitive target tissue, the duodenum, of mice exposed to ≤180 ppm Cr(VI) for 7 and 90 days. Pathways that were altered both in vitro and in vivo included those relevant to cell death/proliferation. In contrast, pathways relevant to p53/DNA damage were identified in vitro but not in vivo. Benchmark dose modeling and phenotypic anchoring of in vivo transcriptomic responses strengthened the finding that Cr(VI) causes cell stress/injury followed by proliferation in the mouse duodenum at high doses.
This study demonstrates both the potential strengths and limitations of HTS data. Here, HTS data were retrospectively demonstrated to have potential utility towards identifying possible key events in chemical MOA that may be prioritized for further evaluation. Still, findings show that target tissue in vivo data remain a critical component for establishing the MOA for specific chemical-induced tumor outcomes. Future studies comparing in vitro versus in vivo responses induced by other chemicals with differing physicochemical properties and target tissues will further inform potential ranges of applicability for the utility of HTS in predictive toxicology.