Screening for Modulatory Effects on Steroidogenesis Using the Human H295R Adrenocortical Cell Line: A Metabolomics Approach

J.C.W. Rijk, A.A.C.M. Peijnenburg, M.H. Blokland, A. Lommen, L.A.P. Hoogenboom, T.F.H. Bovee

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    47 Citations (Scopus)


    The recently OECD validated H295R steroidogenesis assay provides an in vitro alternative to evaluate the potential interference of exogenous compounds with endogenous steroid hormone synthesis. Currently, this assay is used for a simple negative-positive screening of compounds using testosterone and estradiol levels as end points, measured with specific enzyme immunoassays (EIAs) or targeted liquid chromatography (LC) and gas chromatography (GC)–mass spectrometry (MS) methods. However, recent developments in LC-MS and bioinformatics allow for more comprehensive approaches to evaluate changes in steroid profiles. In the current work, the H295R cell model was combined with a metabolomics approach to monitor changes in metabolite profiles in both a targeted and untargeted way. H295R cells were exposed for 48 h to model compounds, i.e., forskolin, abiraterone, prochloraz, ketoconazole, trilostane, formestane, aminoglutethimide, fadrozole, etomidate, and metyrapone, known to affect steroidogenesis. After exposure, the levels of 9 natural steroids were determined by a quantitative targeted GC-MS/MS method and compared to a metabolomics method using Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatography–Time-of-Flight–Mass Spectrometry (UPLC-ToF-MS). Like the EIAs, both methods were suited for negative-positive screening, but the MS methods also generated specific fingerprints, allowing chemical class prediction of the compound under investigation. Although the targeted GC-MS/MS was more sensitive, which was an advantage regarding analysis of the estrogens 17ß-estradiol and estrone, the untargeted UPLC-ToF-MS was able to evaluate effects on the synthesis of the corticosteroids. Moreover, untargeted comparison of the aligned chemical profiles allowed identification of all m/z-values that are differential between exposed and nonexposed H295R cells. In conclusion, application of a comprehensive metabolite profiling methodology not only provides a tool to screen compounds for steroidogenic modulating properties, but also allows chemical class prediction. As such, steroid profiling methodologies in conjunction with the H295R assay can contribute to the prioritization of chemicals for additional safety testing.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1720-1731
    JournalChemical Research in Toxicology
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


    • mass-spectrometry
    • in-vitro
    • expression
    • receptor
    • assay
    • disruption
    • inhibitors
    • chemicals
    • bioassays
    • model


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