Toxicoproteomics: first experiences in a BMBF-study

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Michaela Kröger
Jürgen Hellmann
Luca Toldo
Matthias Glückmann
Bettina von Eiff
Kerstin Fella
Peter-Jürgen Kramer


The rapid development of molecular toxicology is providing innovative approaches to an improved investigation and recognition of toxic substances. Proteome analysis offers, with 2DE/MS (two-dimensional gel electrophoresis and mass spectrometry) and SELDI (surface enhanced laser desorption/ionisation), a promising discipline to classify molecular changes caused by toxic exposure. The Rat Liver Foci Bioassay (RLFB) is a detailed, well-described model for the investigation of liver carcinogenesis induced by chemical substances. Based on this model, we examined whether proteomic methods of molecular toxicology can be used for the early recognition of toxic and/or carcinogenic characteristics of toxic substances. In addition, identification and subsequent prevalidation of new hepatocellular biomarkers was performed, enabling better prediction of toxic and/or carcinogenic effects. This could lead to a more meaningful RLFB and thus to an improved risk assessment of chemicals.
2DE analysis in this study showed that deregulated proteins are assigned to mainly anabolic and catabolic metabolism pathways in the cell. Beyond this, individual proteins were identified which play a key role in the carcinogenic process. A comparison of the differentially expressed proteins in tissue from tumour-bearing animals and tissue derived from the start of the study revealed that protein expression changes (biomarkers) were already detectable shortly after exposure.
In addition, analysis by SELDI clearly showed several differentially expressed proteins and/or derived masses. The spectra represented specific differences in tissues, which could be assigned to the same histopathological endpoints. With bioinformatics analysis it was possible to identify individual discriminating mass peaks, which were indicative of tumour formation. Group specific changes can be illustrated and/or represented in more detail with further cluster analysis methods.
These results give hope for an improved prediction of hepatotoxicity and carcinogenicity by means of protein markers, which could in the future lead to a shortening of carcinogenicity studies and to a reduction in the use of experimental animals.

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Kröger, M., Hellmann, J., Toldo, L., Glückmann, M., von Eiff, B., Fella, K. and Kramer, P.-J. (2004) “Toxicoproteomics: first experiences in a BMBF-study”, ALTEX - Alternatives to animal experimentation, 21(Supp2), pp. 28–40. Available at: (Accessed: 15 August 2022).

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