Using Tox21 High Throughput Screening Assays for the Evaluation of Botanical and Dietary Supplements
Recent nationwide surveys found that natural products, including botanical dietary supplements, are used by approximately 18% of adults. In many cases there is a paucity of toxicological data available for these substances to allow for confident evaluations of product safety. The National Toxicology Program (NTP) has received numerous nominations from the public and federal agencies to study the toxicological effects of botanical dietary supplements. The NTP sought to evaluate the utility of in vitro quantitative high-throughput screening (qHTS) assays for toxicological assessment of botanical and dietary supplements. In brief, concentration response assessments of 90 test substances, including 13 distinct botanical species, and individual purported active constituents were evaluated using a subset of the Tox21 qHTS testing panel. The screen included 20 different endpoints that covered a broad range of biologically-relevant signaling pathways to detect test article effects upon endocrine activity, nuclear receptor signaling, stress response signaling, genotoxicity, and cell-death signaling. Botanical dietary supplement extracts induced measurable and diverse activity. Elevated biological activity profiles were observed following treatments with individual chemical constituents relative to their associated botanical extract. The overall distribution of activity was comparable to activities exhibited by compounds present in the Tox21 10K library. Botanical supplements did not exhibit minimal or idiosyncratic activities that would preclude the use of qHTS platforms as a feasible method to screen this class of compounds. However, there are still many considerations and further development required when attempting to use in vitro qHTS methods to characterize the safety profile of botanical/dietary supplements.