On-target and off-target-based toxicologic effects

Toxicol Pathol. 2013 Feb;41(2):310-4. doi: 10.1177/0192623312464311. Epub 2012 Oct 19.


Adverse toxicologic effects are categorized as chemical-based, on-target, or off-target effects. Chemical-based toxicity is defined as toxicity that is related to the physicochemical characteristics of a compound and its effects on cellular organelles, membranes, and/or metabolic pathways. On-target refers to exaggerated and adverse pharmacologic effects at the target of interest in the test system. Off-target refers to adverse effects as a result of modulation of other targets; these may be related biologically or totally unrelated to the target of interest. Both the risk assessment and development strategies used for xenobiotics are influenced by the understanding of the mechanism of toxicity. It is imperative that the toxicologic pathologist use the toxicologic and biologic data at hand and literature information on the target to form testable hypotheses related to whether a toxicity is chemical-based, on-target, or off-target. The objective of this session at the 2012 Society of Toxicologic Pathologists Symposium in Boston, Massachusetts, was to discuss chemical-based, on-target, and off-target-based effects and the scientific approaches used to aid in their human risk assessment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
  • Humans
  • Pathology*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Toxicology*