Practical approaches for evaluating adrenal toxicity in nonclinical safety assessment

Akira Inomata, Hironobu Sasano

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The adrenal gland has characteristic morphological and biochemical features that render it particularly susceptible to the actions of xenobiotics. As is the case with other endocrine organs, the adrenal gland is under the control of upstream organs (hypothalamic-pituitary system) in vivo, often making it difficult to elucidate the mode of toxicity of a test article. It is very important, especially for pharmaceuticals, to determine whether a test article-related change is caused by a direct effect or other associated factors. In addition, antemortem data, including clinical signs, body weight, food consumption and clinical pathology, and postmortem data, including gross pathology, organ weight and histopathologic examination of the adrenal glands and other related organs, should be carefully monitored and evaluated. During evaluation, the following should also be taken into account: (1) species, sex and age of animals used, (2) metabolic activation by a cytochrome P450 enzyme(s) and (3) physicochemical properties and the metabolic pathway of the test article. In this review, we describe the following crucial points for toxicologic pathologists to consider when evaluating adrenal toxicity: functional anatomy, blood supply, hormone production in each compartment, steroid biosynthesis, potential medulla-cortex interaction, and species and gender differences in anatomical features and other features of the adrenal gland which could affect vulnerability to toxic effects. Finally practical approaches for evaluating adrenal toxicity in nonclinical safety studies are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-132
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Toxicologic Pathology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Aug 3


  • Adrenal cortex
  • Adrenal medulla
  • Nonclinical toxicity
  • Species differences
  • Steroidogenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Toxicology


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