Archives of Toxicology

, Volume 91, Issue 12, pp 3885–3895 | Cite as

Why are most phospholipidosis inducers also hERG blockers?

  • Svetoslav Slavov
  • Iva Stoyanova-Slavova
  • Shuaizhang Li
  • Jinghua Zhao
  • Ruili Huang
  • Menghang Xia
  • Richard BegerEmail author
Molecular Toxicology


Recent reports have noted that a number of compounds that block the human Ether-à-go-go related gene (hERG) ion channel also induce phospholipidosis (PLD). To explore a hypothesis explaining why most PLD inducers are also hERG inhibitors, a modeling approach was undertaken with data sets comprised of 4096 compounds assayed for hERG inhibition and 5490 compounds assayed for PLD induction. To eliminate the chemical domain effect, a filtered data set of 567 compounds tested in quantitative high-throughput screening (qHTS) format for both hERG inhibition and PLD induction was constructed. Partial least squares (PLS) modeling followed by 3D-SDAR mapping of the most frequently occurring bins and projection on to the chemical structure suggested that both adverse effects are driven by similar structural features, namely two aromatic rings and an amino group forming a three-center toxicophore. Non-parametric U-tests performed on the original 3D-SDAR bins indicated that the distance between the two aromatic rings is the main factor determining the differences in activity; at distances of up to about 5.5 Å, a phospholipidotic compound would also inhibit hERG, while at longer distances, a sharp reduction of the PLD-inducing potential leaves only a well-pronounced hERG blocking effect. The hERG activity itself diminishes after the distance between the centroids of the two aromatic rings exceeds 12.5 Å. Further comparison of the two toxicophores revealed that the almost identical aromatic rings to amino group distances play no significant role in distinguishing between PLD and hERG activity. The hypothesis that the PLD toxicophore appears to be a subset of the hERG toxicophore explains why about 80% of all phospholipidotic chemicals (the remaining 20% are thought to act via a different mechanism) also inhibit the hERG ion channel. These models were further validated in large-scale qHTS assays testing 1085 chemicals for their PLD-inducing potential and 1570 compounds for hERG inhibition. After removal of the modeling and experimental inconclusive compounds, the area under the receiver-operating characteristic (ROC) curve was 0.92 for the PLD model and 0.87 for the hERG model. Due to the exceptional ability of these models to recognize safe compounds (negative predictive values of 0.99 for PLD and 0.94 for hERG were achieved), their use in regulatory settings might be particularly useful.


Human Ether-à-go-go related gene Phospholipidosis 3D-SDAR Toxicophore Molecular modeling 



This work was partially supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Interagency Agreement #Y3-HG-7026-03) and the interagency agreement IAG #NTR 12003 from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences/Division of the National Toxicology Program to the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health. We would like to thank Sampada Shahane for her technical support.

Supplementary material

204_2017_1995_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (60.1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 61569 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg (outside the USA) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Svetoslav Slavov
    • 1
  • Iva Stoyanova-Slavova
    • 1
  • Shuaizhang Li
    • 2
  • Jinghua Zhao
    • 2
  • Ruili Huang
    • 2
  • Menghang Xia
    • 2
  • Richard Beger
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Division of Systems BiologyNational Center for Toxicological ResearchJeffersonUSA
  2. 2.National Center for Advancing Translational SciencesBethesdaUSA

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