Estimating provisional margins of exposure for data-poor chemicals using high-throughput computational methods
Nicolas, C. I., Linakis, M. W., Minto, M. S., Mansouri, K., Clewell, R. A., Yoon, M., Wambaugh, J. F., Patlewicz, G., McMullen, P. D., Andersen, M. E., & Clewell Iii, H. J. (2022). Estimating provisional margins of exposure for data-poor chemicals using high-throughput computational methods. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 13, Article 980747. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2022.980747
Current computational technologies hold promise for prioritizing the testing of the thousands of chemicals in commerce. Here, a case study is presented demonstrating comparative risk-prioritization approaches based on the ratio of surrogate hazard and exposure data, called margins of exposure (MoEs). Exposures were estimated using a U.S. EPA's ExpoCast predictive model (SEEM3) results and estimates of bioactivity were predicted using: 1) Oral equivalent doses (OEDs) derived from U.S. EPA's ToxCast high-throughput screening program, together with in vitro to in vivo extrapolation and 2) thresholds of toxicological concern (TTCs) determined using a structure-based decision-tree using the Toxtree open source software. To ground-truth these computational approaches, we compared the MoEs based on predicted noncancer TTC and OED values to those derived using the traditional method of deriving points of departure from no-observed adverse effect levels (NOAELs) from in vivo oral exposures in rodents. TTC-based MoEs were lower than NOAEL-based MoEs for 520 out of 522 (99.6%) compounds in this smaller overlapping dataset, but were relatively well correlated with the same ( r 2 = 0.59). TTC-based MoEs were also lower than OED-based MoEs for 590 (83.2%) of the 709 evaluated chemicals, indicating that TTCs may serve as a conservative surrogate in the absence of chemical-specific experimental data. The TTC-based MoE prioritization process was then applied to over 45,000 curated environmental chemical structures as a proof-of-concept for high-throughput prioritization using TTC-based MoEs. This study demonstrates the utility of exploiting existing computational methods at the pre-assessment phase of a tiered risk-based approach to quickly, and conservatively, prioritize thousands of untested chemicals for further study.