Beyond chemicals: Opportunities and challenges of integrating non-chemical stressors in adverse outcome pathways

Laure Alix Clerbaux, Laure Alix Clerbaux, Penny Nymark, Vinita Chauhan, Katherina Sewald, Madgalini Sachana, Anna Beronius, Maria João Amorim, Clemens Wittwehr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The adverse outcome pathways (AOPs) were developed to accelerate evidence-based chemical risk assessment by leveraging data from new approach methodologies. Thanks to their stressor-agnostic approach, AOPs were seen as instrumental in other fields. Here, we present AOPs that report non-chemical stressors along with the challenges encountered for their development. Challenges regarding AOPs linked to nanomaterials include non-specific molecular initiating events, limited understanding of nanomaterial biodistribution, and needs for adaptations of the in silico modeling and testing systems. Development of AOPs for radiation face challenges in how to incorporate ionizing events type, dose rate, energy deposition, and how to account for targeting multiple macromolecules. AOPs for COVID-19 required the inclusion of SARS-CoV-2-specific replicative steps to capture the essential events driving the disease. Developing AOPs to evaluate efficacy and toxicity of cell therapies necessitates addressing the cellular nature and the therapeutic function of the stressor. Finally, addressing toxicity of emerging biological stressors like microbial pesticides can learn from COVID-19 AOPs. We further discuss that the adaptations needed to expand AOP applicability beyond chemicals are mainly at the molecular and cellular levels while downstream key events at tissue or organ level, such as inflammation, are shared by many AOPs initiated by various stressors. In conclusion, although it is challenging to integrate non-chemical stressors within AOPs, this expands opportunities to account for real-world scenarios, to identify vulnerable individuals, and to bridge knowledge on mechanisms of adversity.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023


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