Validation of the 3D reconstructed human skin micronucleus (RSMN) assay: an animal-free alternative for following-up positive results from standard in vitro genotoxicity assays

Stefan Pfuhler, Thomas R. Downs, Nicola J. Hewitt, Sebastian Hoffmann, Greg C. Mun, Gladys Ouedraogo, Shambhu Roy, Rodger D. Curren and Marilyn J. Aardema

In vitro test batteries have become the standard approach to determine the genotoxic potential of substances of interest across industry sectors. While useful for hazard identification, standard in vitro genotoxicity assays in 2D cell cultures have limited capability to predict in vivo outcomes and may trigger unnecessary follow-up animal studies or the loss of promising substances where animal tests are prohibited or not desired. To address this problem, a team of regulatory, academia and industry scientists was established to develop and validate 3D in vitro human skin-based genotoxicity assays for use in testing substances with primarily topical exposure. Validation of the reconstructed human skin micronucleus (RSMN) assay in MatTek Epi-200™ skin models involved testing 43 coded chemicals selected by independent experts, in four US/European laboratories. The results were analyzed by an independent statistician according to predefined criteria. The RSMN assay showed a reproducibly low background micronucleus frequency and exhibited sufficient capacity to metabolize pro-mutagens. The overall RSMN accuracy when compared to in vivo genotoxicity outcomes was 80%, with a sensitivity of 75% and a specificity of 84%, and the between- and within-laboratory reproducibility was 77 and 84%, respectively. A protocol involving a 72-h exposure showed increased sensitivity in detecting true positive chemicals compared to a 48-h exposure. An analysis of a test strategy using the RSMN assay as a follow-up test for substances positive in standard in vitro clastogenicity/aneugenicity assays and a reconstructed skin Comet assay for substances with positive results in standard gene mutation assays results in a sensitivity of 89%. Based on these results, the RSMN assay is considered sufficiently validated to establish it as a ‘tier 2’ assay for dermally exposed compounds and was recently accepted into the OECD’s test guideline development program.


EpiDerm (EPI-200), reconstructed human skin micronucleus (RSMN) assay, genotoxicity, validation study, inter-lab reproducibility, dose range finding, decision tree, metabolic capacity, binucleated (BN) cells, predictive capacity, clastogenicity, aneugenicity

Materials Tested

acetone, 2-Acetylaminofluorene (2-AAF), 2-Amino-3-methylimidazo[4,5-f]quinolone (IQ), Azidothymidine (AZT), Cadmium chloride (CdCl2), Colchicine, Cyclopenta[c,d]pyrene (CPPE), Cytosine arabinoside, 2,4-Diaminotoluene (2,4-DAT), 2,3-Dibromo-1-propanol, Diethylstilbestrol, 7,12-Dimethylbenz[a]thracene (DMBA), Ethyl methanesulfonate (EMS), N-Ethyl-N-nitrosourea (ENU), Etoposide, 5-Fluorouracil, Methyl methanesulfonate (MMS), N-Methyl-N′-nitro-N-nitrosoguanidine (MNNG), Mitomycin C, Potassium bromate, Taxol, 4-Vinyl-1-cyclohexene diepoxide, Ampicillin sodium salt, Beclomethasone dipropionate, N-Butyl chloride, Curcumin, Cyclohexanone, 2,6-Diaminotoluene (2,6-DAT), 2,4-Dichlorophenol, Diclofenac, Ethionamide, Eugenol, 8-Hydroxyquinoline, d-Limonene, d-Mannitol, Nifedipine, Nitrofurantoin, 1-Nitronaphthalene, 4-Nitrophenol, Phenanthrene, Phenol, Propyl gallate, Resorcinol, Tolbutamide

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