Definitive relationships among chemical structure, carcinogenicity and mutagenicity for 301 chemicals tested by the U.S. NTP

Mutat Res. 1991 May;257(3):229-306. doi: 10.1016/0165-1110(91)90003-e.


An analysis is presented in which are evaluated correlations among chemical structure, mutagenicity to Salmonella, and carcinogenicity to rats and mice among 301 chemicals tested by the U.S. NTP. Overall, there was a high correlation between structural alerts to DNA reactivity and mutagenicity, but the correlation of either property with carcinogenicity was low. If rodent carcinogenicity is regarded as a singular property of chemicals, then neither structural alerts nor mutagenicity to Salmonella are effective in its prediction. Given this, the database was fragmented and new correlations sought between the derived sub-groups. First, the 301 chemicals were segregated into six broad chemical groupings. Second, the rodent cancer data were partially segregated by target tissue. Using the previously assigned structural alerts to DNA reactivity (electrophilicity), the chemicals were split into 154 alerting chemicals and 147 non-alerting chemicals. The alerting chemicals were split into three chemical groups; aromatic amino/nitro-types, alkylating agents and miscellaneous structurally-alerting groups. The non-alerting chemicals were subjectively split into three broad categories; non-alerting, non-alerting containing a non-reactive halogen group, and non-alerting chemical with minor concerns about a possible structural alert. The tumor data for all 301 chemicals are re-presented according to these six chemical groupings. The most significant findings to emerge from comparisons among these six groups of chemicals were as follows: (a) Most of the rodent carcinogens, including most of the 2-species and/or multiple site carcinogens, were among the structurally alerting chemicals. (b) Most of the structurally alerting chemicals were mutagenic; 84% of the carcinogens and 66% of the non-carcinogens. 100% of the 33 aromatic amino/nitro-type 2-species carcinogens were mutagenic. Thus, for structurally alerting chemicals, the Salmonella assay showed high sensitivity and low specificity (0.84 and 0.33, respectively). (c) Among the 147 non-alerting chemicals less than 5% were mutagenic, whether they were carcinogens or non-carcinogens (sensitivity 0.04).

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinogenicity Tests
  • Carcinogens*
  • DNA / drug effects*
  • Mice
  • Mutagenicity Tests
  • Mutagens*
  • Rats
  • Salmonella typhimurium / genetics
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Carcinogens
  • Mutagens
  • DNA