Screening for Developmental Neurotoxicity at the National Toxicology Program: The Future Is Here

Toxicol Sci. 2019 Jan 1;167(1):6-14. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfy278.


The National Toxicology Program (NTP) receives requests to evaluate chemicals with potential to cause adverse health effects, including developmental neurotoxicity (DNT). Some recent requests have included classes of chemicals such as flame retardants, polycyclic aromatic compounds, perfluoroalkyl substances, and bisphenol A analogs with approximately 20-50 compounds per class, many of which include commercial mixtures. However, all the compounds within a class cannot be tested using traditional DNT animal testing guideline studies due to resource and time limitations. Hence, a rapid and biologically relevant screening approach is required to prioritize compounds for further in vivo testing. Because neurodevelopment is a complex process involving multiple distinct cellular processes, one assay will unlikely address the complexity. Hence, the NTP sought to characterize a battery of in vitro and alternative animal assays to quantify chemical effects on a variety of neurodevelopmental processes. A culmination of this effort resulted in a NTP-hosted collaborative project with approximately 40 participants spanning across domains of academia, industry, government, and regulatory agencies; collaborators presented data on cell-based assays and alternative animal models that was generated using a targeted set of compounds provided by the NTP. The NTP analyzed the assay results using benchmark concentration (BMC) modeling to be able to compare results across the divergent assays. The results were shared with the contributing researchers on a private web application during the workshop, and are now publicly available. This article highlights the overview and goals of the project, and describes the NTP's approach in creating the chemical library, development of NTPs data analysis strategy, and the structure of the web application. Finally, we discuss key issues with emphasis on the utility of this approach, and knowledge gaps that need to be addressed for its use in regulatory decision making.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animal Testing Alternatives / methods*
  • Animal Testing Alternatives / trends
  • Animals
  • Environmental Pollutants / classification*
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Government Programs*
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / etiology*
  • Program Development
  • Small Molecule Libraries / chemistry
  • Small Molecule Libraries / toxicity
  • Toxicity Tests
  • Toxicology* / methods
  • Toxicology* / trends
  • United States


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Small Molecule Libraries