Concentration-dependent gene expression responses to flusilazole in embryonic stem cell differentiation cultures

Dorien A. M. van Dartel, Jeroen L. A. Pennings, Liset J de la Fonteyne-Blankestijn, Karen J. J. Brauers, Sandra Claessen, Joost H. van Delft, Jos C. S. Kleinjans, Aldert H. Piersma*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The murine embryonic stem cell test (EST) is designed to evaluate developmental toxicity based on compound-induced inhibition of embryonic stem cell (ESC) differentiation into cardiomyocytes. The addition of transcriptomic evaluation within the EST may result in enhanced predictability and improved characterization of the applicability domain, therefore improving usage of the EST for regulatory testing strategies. Transcriptomic analyses assessing factors critical for risk assessment (i.e. dose) are needed to determine the value of transcriptomic evaluation in the EST. Here, using the developmentally toxic compound, flusilazole, we investigated the effect of compound concentration on gene expression regulation and toxicity prediction in ESC differentiation cultures. Cultures were exposed for 24 h to multiple concentrations of flusilazole (0.54-54 mu M) and RNA was isolated. In addition, we sampled control cultures 0, 24, and 48 h to evaluate the transcriptomic status of the cultures across differentiation. Transcriptomic profiling identified a higher sensitivity of development-related processes as compared to cell division-related processes in flusilazole-exposed differentiation cultures. Furthermore, the sterol synthesis-related mode of action of flusilazole toxicity was detected. Principal component analysis using gene sets related to normal ESC differentiation was used to describe the dynamics of ESC differentiation, defined as the 'differentiation track'. The concentration-dependent effects on development were reflected in the significance of deviation of flusilazole-exposed cultures from this transcriptomic-based differentiation track. Thus, the detection of developmental toxicity in EST using transcriptomics was shown to be compound concentration-dependent. This study provides further insight into the possible application of transcriptomics in the EST as an improved alternative model system for developmental toxicity testing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-118
JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2011


  • Toxicogenomics
  • Embryonic stem cell test
  • Differentiation
  • Embryotoxicity
  • Developmental toxicity
  • Alternative test
  • Flusilazole
  • Triazole
  • Sterol biosynthesis

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