Incorporation of absorption and metabolism into liver toxicity prediction for phytochemicals: A tiered in silico QSAR approach
An increased use of herbal dietary supplements has been associated with adverse liver effects such as elevated serum enzymes and liver failure. The safety assessment for herbal dietary supplements is challenging since they often contain complex mixtures of phytochemicals, most of which have unknown pharmacokinetic and toxicological properties. Rapid tools are needed to evaluate large numbers of phytochemicals for potential liver toxicity. The current study demonstrates a tiered approach combining identification of phytochemicals in liver toxic botanicals, followed by in silico quantitative structure-activity relationship (QSAR) evaluation of these phytochemicals for absorption (e.g. permeability), metabolism (cytochromes P450) and liver toxicity (e.g. elevated transaminases). First, 255 phytochemicals from 20 botanicals associated with clinical liver injury were identified, and the phytochemical structures were subsequently used for QSAR evaluation. Among these identified phytochemicals, 193 were predicted to be absorbed and then used to generate metabolites, which were both used to predict liver toxicity. Forty-eight phytochemicals were predicted as liver toxic, either due to parent phytochemicals or metabolites. Among them, nineteen phytochemicals have previous evidence of liver toxicity (e.g. pyrrolizidine alkaloids), while the majority were newly discovered (e.g. sesquiterpenoids). These findings help reveal new toxic phytochemicals in herbal dietary supplements and prioritize future toxicological testing.