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Development of the Adverse Outcome Pathway (AOP): Chronic binding of antagonist to N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) during brain development induces impairment of learning and memory abilities of children

The Adverse Outcome Pathways (AOPs) are designed to provide mechanistic understanding of complex biological systems and pathways of toxicity that result in adverse outcomes (AOs) relevant to regulatory endpoints. AOP concept captures in a structured way the causal relationships resulting from initial chemical interaction with biological target(s) (molecular initiating event) to an AO manifested in individual organisms and/or populations through a sequential series of key events (KEs), which are cellular, anatomical and/or functional changes in biological processes. An AOP provides the mechanistic detail required to support chemical safety assessment, the development of alternative methods and the implementation of an integrated testing strategy. An example of the AOP relevant to developmental neurotoxicity (DNT) is described here following the requirements of information defined by the OECD Users' Handbook Supplement to the Guidance Document for developing and assessing AOPs. In this AOP, the binding of an antagonist to glutamate receptor N-methyl-Daspartate (NMDAR) receptor is defined as MIE. This MIE triggers a cascade of cellular KEs including reduction of intracellular calcium levels, reduction of brain derived neurotrophic factor release, neuronal cell death, decreased glutamate presynaptic release and aberrant dendritic morphology. At organ level, the above mentioned KEs lead to decreased synaptogenesis and decreased neuronal network formation and function causing learning and memory deficit at organism level, which is defined as the AO. There are in vitro, in vivo and epidemiological data that support the described KEs and their causative relationships rendering this AOP relevant to DNT evaluation in the context of regulatory purposes.