Alternative methods to detect non-genotoxic carcinogens are urgently needed, as this class of carcinogens goes undetected in the current testing strategy for carcinogenicity under REACH. A complicating factor is that non-genotoxic carcinogens act through several distinctive modes of action, which makes prediction of their carcinogenic property difficult. We have recently demonstrated that gene expression profiling in primary mouse hepatocytes is a useful approach to categorize non-genotoxic carcinogens according to their modes of action. In the current study, we improved the methods used for analysis and added mouse embryonic stem cells as a second in vitro test system, because of their features complementary to hepatocytes. Our approach involved an unsupervised analysis based on the 30 most significantly up- and down-regulated genes per chemical. Mouse embryonic stem cells and primary mouse hepatocytes were exposed to a selected set of chemicals and subsequently subjected to gene expression profiling. We focused on non-genotoxic carcinogens, but also included genotoxic carcinogens and non-carcinogens to test the robustness of this approach. Application of the optimized comparison approach resulted in improved categorization of non-genotoxic carcinogens. Mouse embryonic stem cells were a useful addition, especially for genotoxic substances, but also for detection of non-genotoxic carcinogens that went undetected by primary hepatocytes. The approach presented here is an important step forward to categorize chemicals, especially those that are carcinogenic.

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Archives of Toxicology
Department of Molecular Genetics

Schaap, M., Wackers, F. J. T., Zwart, E., Huijskens, I., Jonker, M., Hendriks, G., … Luijten, M. (2015). A novel toxicogenomics-based approach to categorize (non-)genotoxic carcinogens. Archives of Toxicology, 89(12), 2413–2427. doi:10.1007/s00204-014-1368-6