The Exposome and Toxicology: A Win-Win Collaboration

Toxicol Sci. 2022 Feb 28;186(1):1-11. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfab149.


The development of the exposome concept has been one of the hallmarks of environmental and health research for the last decade. The exposome encompasses the life course environmental exposures including lifestyle factors from the prenatal period onwards. It has inspired many research programs and is expected to influence environmental and health research, practices, and policies. Yet, the links bridging toxicology and the exposome concept have not been well developed. In this review, we describe how the exposome framework can interface with and influence the field of toxicology, as well as how the field of toxicology can help advance the exposome field by providing the needed mechanistic understanding of the exposome impacts on health. Indeed, exposome-informed toxicology is expected to emphasize several orientations including (1) developing approaches integrating multiple stressors, in particular chemical mixtures, as well as the interaction of chemicals with other stressors, (2) using mechanistic frameworks such as the adverse outcome pathways to link the different stressors with toxicity outcomes, (3) characterizing the mechanistic basis of long-term effects by distinguishing different patterns of exposures and further exploring the environment-DNA interface through genetic and epigenetic studies, and (4) improving the links between environmental and human health, in particular through a stronger connection between alterations in our ecosystems and human toxicology. The exposome concept provides the linkage between the complex environment and contemporary mechanistic toxicology. What toxicology can bring to exposome characterization is a needed framework for mechanistic understanding and regulatory outcomes in risk assessment.

Keywords: adverse outcome pathways; chemical toxicity; epigenetics; mixtures; multiple stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ecosystem
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Exposome*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Assessment