The OECD validation program of the H295R steroidogenesis assay for the identification of in vitro inhibitors and inducers of testosterone and estradiol production. Phase 2: Inter-laboratory pre-validation studies

Markus Hecker, Henner Hollert, Ralph Cooper, Anne Vinggaard, Yumi Akahori, Margaret Murphy, Christine Lydia Nellemann, Eric Higley, John Newsted, Rudolph Wu, Paul Lam, John Laskey, Angela Buckalew, Stefanie Grund, Makoto Nakai, Gary Timm, John Giesy

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Background, Goals and Scope. In response to concerns that have been raised about chemical substances that may alter the function of endocrine systems and result in adverse effects on human health, an OECD initiative was undertaken to develop and validate in vitro and in vivo assays to identify chemicals that may interfere with endocrine systems of vertebrates. Here we report on studies that were conducted to develop and standardize a cell-based screening assay using the H295R cell line to prioritize chemicals that may act on steroidogenic processes in humans and wildlife. These studies are currently ongoing as part of the 'Special Activity on the Testing and Assessment of Endocrine Disruptors' within the OECD Test Guidelines Program to review, develop, standardize, and validate a number of in vitro and in vivo toxicological assays for testing and assessment of chemicals concerning their potential to interact with the endocrine system of vertebrates. Study Design. Six laboratories from five countries participated in the pre-validation studies. Each laboratory tested the effects of three model chemicals on the production of testosterone (T) and estradiol (E2) using the H295R Steroidogenesis Assay. Chemicals tested were well described inducers or inhibitors of steroidogenic pathways (forskolin, prochloraz and fadrozole). All experiments were conducted in 24 well plates following standard protocols. Six different doses per compound were analyzed in triplicate per plate. A quality control (QQ plate was run in conjunction with the chemical exposure plate to account for inter-assay variation. Each chemical exposure was conducted two or three times. Results. All laboratories successfully detected increases and/or decreases in hormone production by H295R cells after exposure to the different model compounds and there was good agreement in the pattern of response for all groups. Forskolin increased both T and E2 while fadrozole and prochloraz decreased production of both hormones. All chemicals affected hormone production in a close-dependent manner with the exception of fadrozole which caused maximum inhibition of E2 at the two least concentrations tested. Some inter-laboratory differences were noted in the alteration of hormone production measured in chemically exposed cells. However, with the exception of the production of T measured at one laboratory in cells exposed to forskolin, the EC(50)s calculated were comparable (coefficients of variation 34-49%) for all hormones. Discussion and Perspectives. The results indicated that the H295R Steroidogenesis Assay protocol was robust, transferable and reproducible among all laboratories. However, in several instances that were primarily related to one laboratory there were unexplained minor uncertainties related to the inter-laboratory hormone production variation. Based on the findings from this Phase 2 prevalidation study, the H295R Steroidogenesis Assay protocol is currently being refined. The next phase of the OECD validation program will test the refined protocol among the same group of laboratories using an extended set of chemicals (similar to 30) that will include positive and negative chemical controls as well as a broad spectrum of different potential inducers and inhibitors of steroidogenic pathways.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)23-30
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • sex steroid
  • testosterone
  • validation
  • transferability
  • endocrine disruption
  • OECD
  • steroidogenesis
  • H295R
  • hormone production
  • estradiol


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