Mode of Action (MOA) Classifications in the EnviroTox Database: Development and Implementation of a Consensus MOA Classification

Multiple modes of action (MOA) frameworks have been developed in aquatic ecotoxicology, mainly based on fish toxicity. These frameworks provide information on a key determinant of chemical toxicity, but the MOA categories and level of specificity remain unique to each of the classification schemes. This study aimed to develop a consensus MOA assignment within EnviroTox (, a curated in vivo aquatic toxicity database, based on the following MOA classification schemes: Verhaar (modified) framework, ASTER, TEST, and OASIS. MOA classifications from each scheme were first collapsed into one of 3 categories: non‐specifically acting (i.e., narcosis), specifically acting, or non‐classifiable. Consensus rules were developed based on the degree of concordance among the 4 individual MOA classifications to attribute a consensus MOA to each chemical. A confidence rank was also assigned to the consensus MOA classification based on the degree of consensus. Overall, 40% of the chemicals were classified as narcotics, 17% as specifically acting, and 43% could not be classified. Sixty percent of chemicals had a medium to high consensus MOA assignment. When compared to empirical acute toxicity data, the general trend of specifically acting chemicals being more toxic is clearly observed for both fish and invertebrates, but not for algae. EnviroTox is the first approach to establishing a high‐level consensus across 4 computationally and structurally distinct MOA classification schemes. This consensus MOA classification provides both a transparent understanding of the variation between MOA classification schemes and an added certainty of the MOA assignment. In terms of regulatory relevance, a reliable understanding of MOA can provide information that can be useful for the prioritization (ranking) and risk assessment of chemicals.

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