An optimized gene set for transcriptomics based neurodevelopmental toxicity prediction in the neural embryonic stem cell test

Jeroen L. A. Pennings*, Peter T. Theunissen, Aldert H. Piersma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The murine neural embryonic stem cell test (ESTn) is an in vitro model for neurodevelopmental toxicity testing. Recent studies have shown that application of transcriptomics analyses in the ESTn is useful for obtaining more accurate predictions as well as mechanistic insights. Gene expression responses due to stem cell neural differentiation versus toxicant exposure could be distinguished using the Principal Component Analysis based differentiation track algorithm. In this study, we performed a de novo analysis on combined raw data (10 compounds, 19 exposures) from three previous transcriptomics studies to identify an optimized gene set for neurodevelopmental toxicity prediction in the ESTn. By evaluating predictions of 200,000 randomly selected gene sets, we identified genes which significantly contributed to the prediction reliability. A set of 100 genes was obtained, predominantly involved in (neural) development. Further stringency restrictions resulted in a set of 29 genes that allowed for 84% prediction accuracy (area under the curve 94%). We anticipate these gene sets will contribute to further improve ESTn transcriptomics studies aimed at compound risk assessment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-167
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2012


  • Toxicogenomics
  • Neural development
  • Embryonic stem cells
  • Principal Component Analysis

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