Adverse outcome pathways: a concise introduction for toxicologists

Arch Toxicol. 2017 Nov;91(11):3697-3707. doi: 10.1007/s00204-017-2020-z. Epub 2017 Jun 28.


Adverse outcome pathways (AOPs) are designed to provide a clear-cut mechanistic representation of critical toxicological effects that propagate over different layers of biological organization from the initial interaction of a chemical with a molecular target to an adverse outcome at the individual or population level. Adverse outcome pathways are currently gaining momentum, especially in view of their many potential applications as pragmatic tools in the fields of human toxicology, ecotoxicology, and risk assessment. A number of guidance documents, issued by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, as well as landmark papers, outlining best practices to develop, assess and use AOPs, have been published in the last few years. The present paper provides a synopsis of the main principles related to the AOP framework for the toxicologist less familiar with this area, followed by two case studies relevant for human toxicology and ecotoxicology.

Keywords: Adverse outcome pathway; Ecotoxicology; Risk assessment; Toxicology.

Publication types

  • Letter
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adverse Outcome Pathways*
  • Animals
  • Aromatase Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Ecotoxicology / methods*
  • Humans
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Risk Assessment
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Skin / metabolism


  • Aromatase Inhibitors
  • Proteins