Compound-specific effects of diverse neurodevelopmental toxicants on global gene expression in the neural embryonic stem cell test (ESTn)

P. T. Theunissen*, J. F. Robinson, J. L. A. Pennings, M. H. van Herwijnen, J. C. S. Kleinjans, A. H. Piersma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

26 Citations (Web of Science)


Alternative assays for developmental toxicity testing are needed to reduce animal use in regulatory toxicology. The in vitro murine neural embryonic stem cell test (ESTn) was designed as an alternative for neurodevelopmental toxicity testing. The integration of toxicogenomic-based approaches may further increase predictivity as well as provide insight into underlying mechanisms of developmental toxicity. In the present study, we investigated concentration-dependent effects of six mechanistically diverse compounds, acetaldehyde (ACE), carbamazepine (CBZ), flusilazole (FLU), monoethylhexyl phthalate (MEHP), penicillin G (PENG) and phenytoin (PHE), on the transcriptome and neural differentiation in the ESTn. All compounds with the exception of PENG altered ESTn morphology (cytotoxicity and neural differentiation) in a concentration-dependent manner. Compound induced gene expression changes and corresponding enriched gene ontology biological processes (GO-BP) were identified after 24 h exposure at equipotent differentiation-inhibiting concentrations of the compounds. Both compound-specific and common gene expression changes were observed between subsets of tested compounds, in terms of significance, magnitude of regulation and functionality. For example, ACE, CBZ and FLU induced robust changes in number of significantly altered genes (>= 687 genes) as well as a variety of GO-BP, as compared to MEHP, PHE and PENG (
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)330-340
JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2012


  • Embryonic stem cells
  • Neural embryonic stem cell test (ESTn)
  • Toxicogenomics
  • Alternative test method
  • Neural differentiation
  • Adverse and adaptive responses

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