Early evaluation of new drug entities for their potential to cause mitochondrial dysfunction is becoming an important task for drug development. Multi-parametric high-content screening (mp-HCS) of mitochondrial toxicity holds promise as a lead in-vitro strategy for drug testing and safety evaluations. In this study, we have developed a mp-HCS and multi-parametric data analysis scheme for assessing cell responses to induced mitochondrial perturbation. The mp-HCS measurements are shown to be robust enough to allow for quantitative comparison of biological systems with different metabolic pathways simulated by alteration of growth media. Substitution of medium glucose for galactose sensitized cells to drug action and revealed novel response parameters. Each compound was quantitatively characterized according to induced phenotypic changes of cell morphology and functionality measured by fluorescent biomarkers for mitochondrial activity, plasma membrane permeability, and nuclear morphology. Descriptors of drug effects were established by generation of a SCRIT (Specialized-Cell-Response-to-Induced-Toxicity) vector, consisting of normalized statistical measures of each parameter at each dose and growth condition. The dimensionality of SCRIT vectors depends on the number of parameters chosen, which in turn depends on the hypothesis being tested. Specifically, incorporation of three parameters of response into SCRIT vectors enabled clustering of 84 training compounds with known pharmacological and toxicological activities according to the degree of toxicity and mitochondrial involvement. Inclusion of 6 parameters enabled the resolution of more subtle differences between compounds within a common therapeutic class; scoring enabled a ranking of statins in direct agreement with clinical outcomes. Comparison of drug-induced changes required variations in glucose for separation of mitochondrial dysfunction from other types of cytotoxicity. These results also demonstrate that the number of drugs in a training set, the choice of parameters used in analysis, and statistical measures are fundamental for specific hypothesis testing and assessment of quantitative phenotypic differences.


This is the publisher pdf of Differential Mitochondrial Toxicity Screening and Multi-Parametric Data Analysis Maria V. Tsiper, Jennifer Sturgis, Larisa V. Avramova, Shilpa Parakh, Raymond Fatig, Ana Juan-García, Nianyu Li, Bartek Rajwa, Padma Narayanan, C. W. Qualls, J. Paul Robinson, V. Jo Davisson. PLOS ONE 2012 7(10): e45226 and is available at: 10.1371/journal.pone.0045226.

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