Biomarkers of endothelial cell activation serve as potential surrogate markers for drug-induced vascular injury

Toxicol Pathol. 2010 Oct;38(6):856-71. doi: 10.1177/0192623310378866. Epub 2010 Aug 17.


Drug-induced vascular injury (DIVI) is a nonclinical finding that often confounds the toxicological evaluation of investigational drugs, but there is an absence of qualified biomarkers that can be used to detect and monitor its appearance in animals and patients during drug development and clinical use. It is well known that endothelial cell (EC) activation plays a key role in the expression and evolution of DIVI, and the various immunological and inflammatory factors involved in its expression may serve as potential biomarker candidates. Activated ECs change their morphology and gene expression, generating endothelial adhesion molecules, pro-coagulant molecules, cytokines, chemokines, vasodilators, nitric oxide, and acute-phase reactants. This review provides a brief historical background of EC activation and the search for biomarkers of early EC activation for monitoring DIVI. At present, no biomarkers of EC activation have been qualified to predict DIVI in the nonclinical or clinical context, and a robust pathologic foundation for their use is still lacking. We propose three categories of EC activation biomarkers: recommended surrogate markers, potentially useful markers, and emerging candidate markers. This review alerts pharmaceutical companies, research institutions, and regulatory agencies to the continuing need for reliable biomarkers of EC activation in drug development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / methods
  • Endothelium, Vascular / drug effects*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism
  • Endothelium, Vascular / pathology
  • Humans
  • Vascular Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Vascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Vascular Diseases / pathology
  • Xenobiotics / toxicity*


  • Biomarkers
  • Xenobiotics