Pharmacodynamics and toxicodynamics of drug action: Signaling in cell survival and cell death

Ah Ng Tony Kong, Sandhya Mandlekar, Rong Yu, Wei Lei, Adedigbo Fasanmande

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


In therapeutic response to drugs, the plasma concentration range leads to the establishment of a safe and effective dosage regimen. Our hypothesis is that by studying drug concentration-dependent effect on signal transduction mechanisms, a better understanding of the beneficial pharmacodynamic and adverse toxicodynamic responses elicited by the drug may be achieved. Using two classes of chemopreventive compounds (phenolic antioxidants and isothiocyanates), we illustrate the potential utility of two signal transduction pathways elicited by these agents to predict the pharmacodynamic effect (induction of Phase II drug metabolizing enzymes) and the potential toxicodynamic response (stimulation of caspase activity and cytotoxic cell death). At lower concentration, phenolic antioxidants and isothiocyanates activate mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK; extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase 2, ERK2; and c-Jun N-terminal kinase I, JNK1) in a concentration- and time-dependent manner. The activation of MAPK by these compounds may lead to the induction of cell survival/protection genes such as c-jun, c-fos, or Phase II drug metabolizing enzymes. However, at higher concentrations, these agents activate another signaling molecule, ICE/Ced3 cysteine protease enzymes (caspases) leading to apoptotic cell death. The activation of these pathways may dictate the fate of the cells/tissues upon exposure to drugs or chemicals. At lower concentrations, these compounds activate MAPK leading to the induction of Phase II genes, which may protect the cells/tissues against toxic insults and therefore may enhance cell survival. On the other hand, at higher concentrations, these agents may activate the caspases, which may lead to apoptotic cell death, and have toxicity. Understanding the activation of these and other signal transduction events elicited by various drugs and chemicals may yield insights into the regulation of gene expression of drug metabolizing enzymes and cytotoxicity. Thus, the study of signaling events in cell survival (hemeostasis) and cell death (cytotoxicity) may have practical application during pharmaceutical drug development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)790-798
Number of pages9
JournalPharmaceutical research
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Pharmacology (medical)


  • Apoptosis
  • Caspases
  • Chemopreventive agents
  • MAPK
  • Phase II drug metabolizing enzymes


Dive into the research topics of 'Pharmacodynamics and toxicodynamics of drug action: Signaling in cell survival and cell death'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this