Evaluation of pesticide toxicity: a hierarchical QSAR approach to model the acute aquatic toxicity and avian oral toxicity of pesticides

Mazzatorta, Paolo (2005). Evaluation of pesticide toxicity: a hierarchical QSAR approach to model the acute aquatic toxicity and avian oral toxicity of pesticides. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000e8da


The thesis aimed to extract information relevant to the hazard and risk assessment of pesticides. In particular, quantitative structure-activity relationship (QSAR) approaches have been used to build up a mathematical model able to predict the aquatic acute toxicity, LC50, and the avian oral toxicity, LD50, for pesticides. Ecotoxicological values were collected from several databases, and screened according to quality criteria.

A hierarchical QSAR approach was applied for the prediction of acute aquatic toxicity. Chemical structures were encoded into molecular descriptors by an automated, seamless procedure available within the OpenMolGRID system. Different linear and non-linear regression techniques were used to obtain reliable and thoroughly validated QSARs. The final model was developed by a counter-propagation neural network coupled with genetic algorithms for variable selection. The proposed QSAR is consistent with McFarland's principle for biological activity and makes use of seven molecular descriptors. The model was assessed thoroughly in test (R2 = 0.8) and validation sets (R2 = 0.72), the y-scrambling test and a sensitivity/stability test.

The second endpoint considered in this thesis was avian oral toxicity. As previously, the chemical description of chemicals was generated automatically by the OpenMolGRID system. The best classification model was chosen on the basis of the performances on a validation set of 19 data points, and was obtained from a support vector machine using 94 data points and nine variables selected by genetic algorithms (Error Ratetraining = 0.021, Error Ratevalidation = 0.158). The model allowed for a mechanistic estimation of the toxicological action. In fact, several descriptors selected for the final classification model encode for the interaction of the pesticides with other molecules. The presence of hetero-atoms, e.g. sulphur atoms, is correlated with the toxicity, and the pool of descriptor selected is generally dependent from the 3D conformation of the structures. These suggest that, in the case of avian oral toxicity, pesticides probably exert their toxic action through the interaction with some macromolecule and/or protein of the biological system.

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