Modeling drug- and chemical-induced hepatotoxicity with systems biology approaches

Publication: Front Physiol
Software: DILIsym®
Division: DILIsym Services


We provide an overview of computational systems biology approaches as applied to the study of chemical- and drug-induced toxicity. The concept of “toxicity pathways” is described in the context of the 2007 US National Academies of Science report, “Toxicity testing in the 21st Century: A Vision and A Strategy.” Pathway mapping and modeling based on network biology concepts are a key component of the vision laid out in this report for a more biologically based analysis of dose-response behavior and the safety of chemicals and drugs. We focus on toxicity of the liver (hepatotoxicity) – a complex phenotypic response with contributions from a number of different cell types and biological processes. We describe three case studies of complementary multi-scale computational modeling approaches to understand perturbation of toxicity pathways in the human liver as a result of exposure to environmental contaminants and specific drugs. One approach involves development of a spatial, multicellular “virtual tissue” model of the liver lobule that combines molecular circuits in individual hepatocytes with cell-cell interactions and blood-mediated transport of toxicants through hepatic sinusoids, to enable quantitative, mechanistic prediction of hepatic dose-response for activation of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor toxicity pathway. Simultaneously, methods are being developing to extract quantitative maps of intracellular signaling and transcriptional regulatory networks perturbed by environmental contaminants, using a combination of gene expression and genome-wide protein-DNA interaction data. A predictive physiological model (DILIsym™) to understand drug-induced liver injury (DILI), the most common adverse event leading to termination of clinical development programs and regulatory actions on drugs, is also described. The model initially focuses on reactive metabolite-induced DILI in response to administration of acetaminophen, and spans multiple biological scales.

By Lisl Shoda, Brett A Howell, Scott Q Siler, Jeffery Woodhead, Paul B Watkins