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Impact of Environmental Chemicals on Key Transcription Regulators and Correlation to Toxicity End Points within EPA’s ToxCast Program

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National Center for Computational Toxicology, Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and Attagene Inc., P.O. Box 12054, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina
* To whom correspondence should be addressed. Phone: 919-541-4104. E-mail: [email protected]
†U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
‡University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
§Attagene Inc.
∥Present address: Nanosyn Biology, Capitola Dr. 800, Durham NC 27713.
1Factorial is a trademark of Attagene Inc.
Cite this: Chem. Res. Toxicol. 2010, 23, 3, 578–590
Publication Date (Web):February 10, 2010
Copyright © 2010 American Chemical Society

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    Exposure to environmental chemicals adds to the burden of disease in humans and wildlife to a degree that is difficult to estimate and, thus, mitigate. The ability to assess the impact of existing chemicals for which little to no toxicity data are available or to foresee such effects during early stages of chemical development and use, and before potential exposure occurs, is a pressing need. However, the capacity of the current toxicity evaluation approaches to meet this demand is limited by low throughput and high costs. In the context of EPA’s ToxCast project, we have evaluated a novel cellular biosensor system (Factorial1) that enables rapid, high-content assessment of a compound’s impact on gene regulatory networks. The Factorial biosensors combined libraries of cis- and trans-regulated transcription factor reporter constructs with a highly homogeneous method of detection enabling simultaneous evaluation of multiplexed transcription factor activities. Here, we demonstrate the application of the technology toward determining bioactivity profiles by quantitatively evaluating the effects of 309 environmental chemicals on 25 nuclear receptors and 48 transcription factor response elements. We demonstrate coherent transcription factor activity across nuclear receptors and their response elements and that Nrf2 activity, a marker of oxidative stress, is highly correlated to the overall promiscuity of a chemical. Additionally, as part of the ToxCast program, we identify molecular targets that associate with in vivo end points and represent modes of action that can serve as potential toxicity pathway biomarkers and inputs for predictive modeling of in vivo toxicity.

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    The 48 CIS and 25 TRANS assay names and descriptions, the complete concentration response and derived AC50 values, and the results of the relative risk permutation test as tables, and figures displaying the results of establishing a global Emax cutoff, the replicate analysis, and the association between PPAR and rat liver tumorigenesis. This material is available free of charge via the Internet at

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