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Environ Health Perspect. 2016 Aug;124(8):1214-26. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1510352. Epub 2016 Jan 13.

On the Utility of ToxCast™ and ToxPi as Methods for Identifying New Obesogens.

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Department of Developmental and Cell Biology, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California, USA.



In ToxCast™ Phase I, the U.S. EPA commissioned screening of 320 pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and other chemicals in a series of high-throughput assays. The agency also developed a toxicological prioritization tool, ToxPi, to facilitate using ToxCast™ assays to predict biological function.


We asked whether top-scoring PPARγ activators identified in ToxCast™ Phase I were genuine PPARγ activators and inducers of adipogenesis. Next, we identified ToxCast™ assays that should predict adipogenesis, developed an adipogenesis ToxPi, and asked how well the ToxPi predicted adipogenic activity.


We used transient transfection to test the ability of ToxCast™ chemicals to modulate PPARγ and RXRα, and differentiation assays employing 3T3-L1 preadipocytes and mouse bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (mBMSCs) to evaluate the adipogenic capacity of ToxCast™ chemicals.


Only 5/21 of the top scoring ToxCast™ PPARγ activators were activators in our assays, 3 were PPARγ antagonists, the remainder were inactive. The bona fide PPARγ activators we identified induced adipogenesis in 3T3-L1 cells and mBMSCs. Only 7 of the 17 chemicals predicted to be active by the ToxPi promoted adipogenesis, 1 inhibited adipogenesis, and 2 of the 7 predicted negatives were also adipogenic. Of these 9 adipogenic chemicals, 3 activated PPARγ, and 1 activated RXRα.


ToxCast™ PPARγ and RXRα assays do not correlate well with laboratory measurements of PPARγ and RXRα activity. The adipogenesis ToxPi performed poorly, perhaps due to the performance of ToxCast™ assays. We observed a modest predictive value of ToxCast™ for PPARγ and RXRα activation and adipogenesis and it is likely that many obesogenic chemicals remain to be identified.


Janesick AS, Dimastrogiovanni G, Vanek L, Boulos C, Chamorro-García R, Tang W, Blumberg B. 2016. On the utility of ToxCast™ and ToxPi as methods for identifying new obesogens. Environ Health Perspect 124:1214-1226;

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