Path4Drug: Data Science Workflow for Identification of Tissue-Specific Biological Pathways Modulated by Toxic Drugs

Barbara Füzi, Jana Gurinova, Henning Hermjakob, Gerhard Ecker (Corresponding author), Rahuman S. Malik-Sheriff (Corresponding author)

Publications: Contribution to journalArticlePeer Reviewed


The early prediction of drug adverse effects is of great interest to pharmaceutical research, as toxicity is one of the leading reasons for drug attrition. Understanding the cell signaling and regulatory pathways affected by a drug candidate is crucial to the study of drug toxicity. In this study, we present a computational technique that employs the propagation of drug-protein interactions to connect compounds to biological pathways. Target profiles for drugs were built by retrieving drug target proteins from public repositories such as ChEMBL, DrugBank, IUPHAR, PharmGKB, and TTD. Subsequent enrichment test of the protein pool using Reactome revealed potential pathways affected by the drugs. Furthermore, an optional tissue filter utilizing the Human Protein Atlas was applied to identify tissue-specific pathways. The analysis pipeline was implemented in an open-source KNIME workflow called Path4Drug to allow automated data retrieval and reconstruction for any given drug present in ChEMBL. The pipeline was applied to withdrawn drugs and cardio- and hepatotoxic drugs with black box warnings to identify biochemical pathways they affect and to find pathways that can be potentially connected to the toxic events. To complement this approach, drugs used in cardiac therapy without any record of toxicity were also analyzed. The results provide already known associations as well as a large amount of additional potential connections. Consequently, our approach can link drugs to biological pathways by leveraging big data available in public resources. The developed tool is openly available and modifiable to support other systems biology analyses.
Original languageEnglish
Article number708296
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Pharmacology
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 301211 Toxicology


  • toxicicity
  • drugs
  • drug targets
  • biological pathways
  • data science

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