Naven, Russell T; Swiss, Rachel; Klug-McLeod, Jacquelyn; Will, Yvonne; Greene, Nigel
Mitochondrial dysfunction has been implicated as an important factor in the development of idiosyncratic organ toxicity. An ability to predict mitochondrial dysfunction early in the drug development process enables the deselection of those drug candidates with potential safety liabilities, allowing resources to be focused on those compounds with the highest chance of success to the market. A database of greater than 2000 compounds was analyzed to identify structural and physicochemical features associated with the uncoupling of oxidative phosphorylation (herein defined as an increase in basal respiration). Many toxicophores associated with potent uncoupling activity were identified, and these could be divided into two main mechanistic classes, protonophores and redox cyclers. For the protonophores, potent uncoupling activity was often promoted by high lipophilicity and apparent stabilization of the anionic charge resulting from deprotonation of the protonophore. The potency of redox cyclers did not appear to be prone to variations in lipophilicity. Only 11 toxicophores were of sufficient predictive performance that they could be incorporated into a structural-alert model. Each alert was associated with one of three confidence levels (high, medium, and low) depending upon the lipophilicity-activity profile of the structural class. The final model identified over 68% of those compounds with potent uncoupling activity and with a value for specificity above 99%. We discuss the advantages and limitations of this approach and conclude that although structural alert methodology is useful for identifying toxicophores associated with mitochondrial dysfunction, they are not a replacement for the mitochondrial dysfunction assays in early screening paradigms.