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Bacterial gene profiling assay applied as an alternative method for mode of action classification: Pilot study using chlorinated anilines



Polar narcotic structural analogues (e.g., chlorinated anilines with a differing degree of chlorosubstitution, such as aniline, 4-chloroaniline, 3,5-dichloroaniline, and 2,3,4-trichloroaniline) are assumed to induce their toxic effects via the same predominant mode of action (MOA; membrane damage) at equitoxic exposure concentrations. In this study, a bacterial gene profiling assay consisting of 14 general stress genes was used to test this hypothesis for these four compounds. Although we found a consistent induction of membrane damage, the response cascade and the extent of the response differed among the different chemical treatments. The higher chlorosubstituted anilines also triggered significantly more genes involved in other general stress MOA classes (oxidative stress and protein perturbation). These findings illustrate that, along with the commonly used physicochemistry-based MOA categorization methods, alternative tests such as the bacterial gene profiling assay can yield valuable biological information on the MOA of a certain chemical or group of chemicals that is crucial in high-quality environmental risk assessment. In a second phase, the experimental gene profiling data sets of the chlorinated anilines were analyzed and weighed against existing data on other polar and non polar narcotic compounds to obtain a broader comparison in which the predefined chemical MOAs (narcosis and polar narcosis) were contrasted with the biological MOAs (gene expression profiles). Although additional optimization of the assay is needed, our results show that the bacterial gene profiling assay opens new perspectives for biology-based chemical grouping, thereby further enabling targeted MOA-based risk assessment. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2011; 30:1059–1068. © 2011 SETAC