An in vitro depth of injury prediction model for a histopathologic classification of EPA and GHS eye irritants

Toxicol In Vitro. 2019 Dec:61:104628. doi: 10.1016/j.tiv.2019.104628. Epub 2019 Aug 13.


The purpose of this study was to develop Globally Harmonized System (GHS) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prediction models for classifying irritant materials based on histopathologic in vitro depth of injury (DoI) measurements. Sixteen different materials were selected, representing all classes of toxicity, according to the GHS and EPA classification systems. Food-source rabbit eyes, similar to eyes used for the widely accepted Bovine Corneal Opacity and Permeability and Isolated Chicken Eye ocular irritation tests, were used. Tissues were exposed to test material for 1 min, and corneas were collected at 3- and 24-hours post-exposure. Tissues were then fixed and processed for live/dead biomarker fluorescent staining using phalloidin. DoI was then measured, and the percent DoI values for the epithelium and stroma were compared to the EPA and GHS classifications. Excluding surfactants, EPA nonclassified (category IV) materials showed no stromal and very slight epithelial damage (≤10%) to the cornea, whereas EPA corrosive (category I) materials showed significantly greater damage (P < 0.001), ranging from 39% to 100% of the stromal depth. Importantly, EPA reversible (categories II and III) materials showed significant damage to the epithelium (>10%, P < 0.005) but significantly less severe damage to the corneal stroma (P < 0.001), ranging from 1% to 38% of the stromal depth. GHS nonclassified (category NC) irritants caused damage to the epithelium but not to the stroma. All GHS class 2 materials showed damage to the stroma (1-11%), whereas GHS corrosives caused significantly greater damage to the stroma (38-100%; P < 0.001). Additionally, one corrosive material, which produced a stromal DoI of 99% at 24 h, produced no apparent damage at 3-hours post-exposure. Based on these findings, histopathologic EPA and GHS prediction models are proposed that appear to separate and identify reversible irritants from other irritant classes. Furthermore, GHS classification appears to require stromal damage, whereas NC materials may or may not damage the corneal epithelium.

Keywords: Cornea; Depth of injury; EPA; GHS; In vitro eye irritation tests; Isolated rabbit eye; Ocular irritation.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Testing Alternatives
  • Animals
  • Chickens
  • Cornea / drug effects*
  • Cornea / pathology
  • Irritants / classification*
  • Irritants / toxicity*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Rabbits
  • United Nations
  • United States
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency


  • Irritants