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Event: 1446

Key Event Title

The KE title should describe a discrete biological change that can be measured. It should generally define the biological object or process being measured and whether it is increased, decreased, or otherwise definably altered relative to a control state. For example “enzyme activity, decreased”, “hormone concentration, increased”, or “growth rate, decreased”, where the specific enzyme or hormone being measured is defined. More help

Decrease, Coupling of oxidative phosphorylation

Short name
The KE short name should be a reasonable abbreviation of the KE title and is used in labelling this object throughout the AOP-Wiki. The short name should be less than 80 characters in length. More help
Decrease, Coupling of OXPHOS

Biological Context

Structured terms, selected from a drop-down menu, are used to identify the level of biological organization for each KE. Note, KEs should be defined within a particular level of biological organization. Only KERs should be used to transition from one level of organization to another. Selection of the level of biological organization defines which structured terms will be available to select when defining the Event Components (below). More help
Level of Biological Organization

Cell term

Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf.The biological context describes the location/biological environment in which the event takes place.  For molecular/cellular events this would include the cellular context (if known), organ context, and species/life stage/sex for which the event is relevant. For tissue/organ events cellular context is not applicable.  For individual/population events, the organ context is not applicable. More help
Cell term

Organ term

Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf.The biological context describes the location/biological environment in which the event takes place.  For molecular/cellular events this would include the cellular context (if known), organ context, and species/life stage/sex for which the event is relevant. For tissue/organ events cellular context is not applicable.  For individual/population events, the organ context is not applicable. More help

Key Event Components

Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf.Because one of the aims of the AOP-KB is to facilitate de facto construction of AOP networks through the use of shared KE and KER elements, authors are also asked to define their KEs using a set of structured ontology terms (Event Components). In the absence of structured terms, the same KE can readily be defined using a number of synonymous titles (read by a computer as character strings). In order to make these synonymous KEs more machine-readable, KEs should also be defined by one or more “event components” consisting of a biological process, object, and action with each term originating from one of 22 biological ontologies (Ives, et al., 2017; See List). Biological process describes dynamics of the underlying biological system (e.g., receptor signalling). The biological object is the subject of the perturbation (e.g., a specific biological receptor that is activated or inhibited). Action represents the direction of perturbation of this system (generally increased or decreased; e.g., ‘decreased’ in the case of a receptor that is inhibited to indicate a decrease in the signalling by that receptor).Note that when editing Event Components, clicking an existing Event Component from the Suggestions menu will autopopulate these fields, along with their source ID and description. To clear any fields before submitting the event component, use the 'Clear process,' 'Clear object,' or 'Clear action' buttons. If a desired term does not exist, a new term request may be made via Term Requests. Event components may not be edited; to edit an event component, remove the existing event component and create a new one using the terms that you wish to add. More help
Process Object Action
oxidative phosphorylation uncoupler activity increased

Key Event Overview

AOPs Including This Key Event

All of the AOPs that are linked to this KE will automatically be listed in this subsection. This table can be particularly useful for derivation of AOP networks including the KE. Clicking on the name of the AOP will bring you to the individual page for that AOP. More help
AOP Name Role of event in AOP Point of Contact Author Status OECD Status
Uncoupling of OXPHOS leading to growth inhibition (5) MolecularInitiatingEvent You Song (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite
Uncoupling of OXPHOS leading to growth inhibition (1) MolecularInitiatingEvent You Song (send email) Open for comment. Do not cite
Uncoupling of OXPHOS leading to growth inhibition (2) MolecularInitiatingEvent You Song (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite
Uncoupling of OXPHOS leading to growth inhibition (3) MolecularInitiatingEvent You Song (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite
Uncoupling of OXPHOS leading to growth inhibition (4) MolecularInitiatingEvent You Song (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite
Uncoupling of OXPHOS leading to growth inhibition (6) MolecularInitiatingEvent You Song (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite


This is a structured field used to identify specific agents (generally chemicals) that can trigger the KE. Stressors identified in this field will be linked to the KE in a machine-readable manner, such that, for example, a stressor search would identify this as an event the stressor can trigger. NOTE: intermediate or downstream KEs in one AOP may function as MIEs in other AOPs, meaning that stressor information may be added to the KE description, even if it is a downstream KE in the pathway currently under development.Information concerning the stressors that may trigger an MIE can be defined using a combination of structured and unstructured (free-text) fields. For example, structured fields may be used to indicate specific chemicals for which there is evidence of an interaction relevant to this MIE. By linking the KE description to a structured chemical name, it will be increasingly possible to link the MIE to other sources of chemical data and information, enhancing searchability and inter-operability among different data-sources and knowledgebases. The free-text section “Evidence for perturbation of this MIE by stressor” can be used both to identify the supporting evidence for specific stressors triggering the MIE as well as to define broad chemical categories or other properties that classify the stressors able to trigger the MIE for which specific structured terms may not exist. More help

Taxonomic Applicability

Latin or common names of a species or broader taxonomic grouping (e.g., class, order, family) can be selected from an ontology. In many cases, individual species identified in these structured fields will be those for which the strongest evidence used in constructing the AOP was available in relation to this KE. More help
Term Scientific Term Evidence Link
zebrafish Danio rerio High NCBI
human Homo sapiens High NCBI
mouse Mus musculus High NCBI
rat Rattus norvegicus High NCBI
Lemna minor Lemna minor High NCBI

Life Stages

The structured ontology terms for life-stage are more comprehensive than those for taxa, but may still require further description/development and explanation in the free text section. More help
Life stage Evidence
Embryo High
Juvenile High
Adult, reproductively mature Moderate

Sex Applicability

No help message More help
Term Evidence
Unspecific High

Key Event Description

A description of the biological state being observed or measured, the biological compartment in which it is measured, and its general role in the biology should be provided. For example, the biological state being measured could be the activity of an enzyme, the expression of a gene or abundance of an mRNA transcript, the concentration of a hormone or protein, neuronal activity, heart rate, etc. The biological compartment may be a particular cell type, tissue, organ, fluid (e.g., plasma, cerebrospinal fluid), etc. The role in the biology could describe the reaction that an enzyme catalyses and the role of that reaction within a given metabolic pathway; the protein that a gene or mRNA transcript codes for and the function of that protein; the function of a hormone in a given target tissue, physiological function of an organ, etc. Careful attention should be taken to avoid reference to other KEs, KERs or AOPs. Only describe this KE as a single isolated measurable event/state. This will ensure that the KE is modular and can be used by other AOPs, thereby facilitating construction of AOP networks. More help

Decreased coupling of oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS), or uncoupling of OXPHOS, describes dissipation of protonmotive force (PMF) across the inner mitochondrial membrane (IMM) by environmental stressors. In eukaryotes, the mitochondrial electron transport chain mediates a series of redox reactions to create a PMF across the IMM. The PMF is used as energy to drive adenosine triphosphate (ATP) synthesis through phosphorylation of adenosine diphosphate (ADP). These processes are coupled and referred to as OXPHOS. A number of chemicals can dissipate the PMF, leading to uncoupling of OXPHOS. This key event describes the main outcome of the interactions between an uncoupler and the transmembrane PMF. An uncoupler can bind to a proton in the mitochondrial inter membrane space, transport the proton to the matrix side of the IMM, release the proton and move back to the inter membrane space. These processes are repeated until the transmembrane PMF is dissipated. This KE is therefore a lumped term of these processes and represents the final consequence of the interactions.

How It Is Measured or Detected

One of the primary considerations in evaluating AOPs is the relevance and reliability of the methods with which the KEs can be measured. The aim of this section of the KE description is not to provide detailed protocols, but rather to capture, in a sentence or two, per method, the type(s) of measurements that can be employed to evaluate the KE and the relative level of scientific confidence in those measurements. Methods that can be used to detect or measure the biological state represented in the KE should be briefly described and/or cited. These can range from citation of specific validated test guidelines, citation of specific methods published in the peer reviewed literature, or outlines of a general protocol or approach (e.g., a protein may be measured by ELISA).Key considerations regarding scientific confidence in the measurement approach include whether the assay is fit for purpose, whether it provides a direct or indirect measure of the biological state in question, whether it is repeatable and reproducible, and the extent to which it is accepted in the scientific and/or regulatory community. Information can be obtained from the OECD Test Guidelines website and the EURL ECVAM Database Service on Alternative Methods to Animal Experimentation (DB-ALM). ?

Uncoupling of oxidative phosphorylation can be indicated by reduced mitochondrial membrane potential, increased proton leak and/or increased oxygen consumption rate.

  • Mitochondrial membrane potential can be determined using ToxCast high-throughput screening bioassays such as “APR_HepG2_MitoMembPot”, “APR_Hepat_MitoFxnI”, and “APR_Mitochondrial_membrane_potential”, and the Tox21 high-throughput screening assay “tox21-mitotox-p1”.
  • Mitochondrial membrane potential can also be measured using commercially available fluorescent probes such as TMRM (tetramethylrhodamine, methyl ester, perchlorate), TMRE (tetramethylrhodamine, ethyl ester, perchlorate) and JC-1 (Perry 2011).
  • Proton leak and oxygen consumption rate can be measured using a high-resolution respirometry (Affourtit 2018) or a Seahorse XF analyzer (Divakaruni 2014).

Domain of Applicability

This free text section should be used to elaborate on the scientific basis for the indicated domains of applicability and the WoE calls (if provided). While structured terms may be selected to define the taxonomic, life stage and sex applicability (see structured applicability terms, above) of the KE, the structured terms may not adequately reflect or capture the overall biological applicability domain (particularly with regard to taxa). Likewise, the structured terms do not provide an explanation or rationale for the selection. The free-text section on evidence for taxonomic, life stage, and sex applicability can be used to elaborate on why the specific structured terms were selected, and provide supporting references and background information.  More help

Taxonomic applicability domain

This key event is in general considered applicable to most eukaryotes, as the mitochondrion and oxidative phosphorylation are highly conserved (Roger 2017).

Life stage applicability domain

This key event is considered applicable to all life stages, as ATP synthesis by oxidative phosphorylation is an essential biological process for most living organisms.

Sex applicability domain

This key event is considered sex-unspecific, as both males and females use oxidative phosphorylation as a main process to generate ATP.

Evidence for Perturbation by Stressor

Overview for Molecular Initiating Event

When a specific MIE can be defined (i.e., the molecular target and nature of interaction is known), in addition to describing the biological state associated with the MIE, how it can be measured, and its taxonomic, life stage, and sex applicability, it is useful to list stressors known to trigger the MIE and provide evidence supporting that initiation. This will often be a list of prototypical compounds demonstrated to interact with the target molecule in the manner detailed in the MIE description to initiate a given pathway (e.g., 2,3,7,8-TCDD as a prototypical AhR agonist; 17α-ethynyl estradiol as a prototypical ER agonist). Depending on the information available, this could also refer to chemical categories (i.e., groups of chemicals with defined structural features known to trigger the MIE). Known stressors should be included in the MIE description, but it is not expected to include a comprehensive list. Rather initially, stressors identified will be exemplary and the stressor list will be expanded over time. For more information on MIE, please see pages 32-33 in the User Handbook.

Decreased coupling of oxidative phosphorylation can be directly triggered by “uncouplers” as a molecular initiating event.

  • Most of the chemical uncouplers are protonophores, a type of proton binders that can translocate protons across membranes. These protonophores several common structural characteristics, such as bulky hydrophobic moiety, an acid dissociable group and a strong electron-withdrawing group (Terada 1990). Weak acids such as phenols, benzimidazoles and salicylic acids are considered potential protonophores.
  • Classical uncouplers, such as carbonyl cyanide-p-trifluoromethoxyphenylhydrazone (FCCP), carbonyl cyanide m-chlorophenyl hydrazone (CCCP), 2,4-dinitrophenol (DNP), pentachlorophenol (PCP) and SF-6847 (Terada 1990).
  • Newer uncouplers, such as triclosan (Shim 2016; Weatherly 2016), emodin (Sugiyama 2019), and hydroxylated polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) (Legradi 2014) have been widely investigated in vertebrates.
  • Computational predictions based on quantitative structure-activity relationships (Russom 1997; Schultz 1997; Naven 2012; Dreier 2019; Troger 2020) and in vitro high-throughput screening (Escher 2002; Attene-Ramos 2013; Attene-Ramos 2015; Xia 2018) have facilitated the identification and classification of potential uncouplers from a large list of chemicals.   


List of the literature that was cited for this KE description. Ideally, the list of references, should conform, to the extent possible, with the OECD Style Guide ( (OECD, 2015). More help

Affourtit C, Wong H-S, Brand MD. 2018. Measurement of proton leak in isolated mitochondria. In Palmeira CM, Moreno AJ, eds, Mitochondrial Bioenergetics: Methods and Protocols. Springer New York, New York, NY, pp 157-170.

Attene-Ramos MS, Huang R, Sakamuru S, Witt KL, Beeson GC, Shou L, Schnellmann RG, Beeson CC, Tice RR, Austin CP, Xia M. 2013. Systematic study of mitochondrial toxicity of environmental chemicals using quantitative high throughput screening. Chemical Research in Toxicology 26:1323-1332. DOI: 10.1021/tx4001754.

Attene-Ramos MS, Huang RL, Michael S, Witt KL, Richard A, Tice RR, Simeonov A, Austin CP, Xia MH. 2015. Profiling of the Tox21 chemical collection for mitochondrial function to identify compounds that acutely decrease mitochondrial membrane potential. Environ Health Persp 123:49-56. DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1408642.

Divakaruni AS, Paradyse A, Ferrick DA, Murphy AN, Jastroch M. 2014. Chapter Sixteen - Analysis and Interpretation of Microplate-Based Oxygen Consumption and pH Data. In Murphy AN, Chan DC, eds, Methods in Enzymology. Vol 547. Academic Press, pp 309-354.

Dreier DA, Denslow ND, Martyniuk CJ. 2019. Computational in vitro toxicology uncovers chemical structures impairing mitochondrial membrane potential. J Chem Inf Model 59:702-712. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jcim.8b00433.

Escher BI, Schwarzenbach RP. 2002. Mechanistic studies on baseline toxicity and uncoupling of organic compounds as a basis for modeling effective membrane concentrations in aquatic organisms. Aquatic Sciences 64:20-35. DOI: 10.1007/s00027-002-8052-2.

Legradi J, Dahlberg A-K, Cenijn P, Marsh G, Asplund L, Bergman Å, Legler J. 2014. Disruption of Oxidative Phosphorylation (OXPHOS) by Hydroxylated Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (OH-PBDEs) Present in the Marine Environment. Environmental Science & Technology 48:14703-14711. DOI: 10.1021/es5039744.

Naven RT, Swiss R, Klug-Mcleod J, Will Y, Greene N. 2012. The development of structure-activity relationships for mitochondrial dysfunction: Uncoupling of oxidative phosphorylation. Toxicol Sci 131:271-278. DOI: 10.1093/toxsci/kfs279.

Perry SW, Norman JP, Barbieri J, Brown EB, Gelbard HA. 2011. Mitochondrial membrane potential probes and the proton gradient: a practical usage guide. BioTechniques 50:98-115. DOI: 10.2144/000113610.

Roger AJ, Munoz-Gomez SA, Kamikawa R. 2017. The origin and diversification of mitochondria. Curr Biol 27:R1177-R1192. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.09.015.

Russom CL, Bradbury SP, Broderius SJ, Hammermeister DE, Drummond RA. 1997. Predicting modes of toxic action from chemical structure: Acute toxicity in the fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas). Environ Toxicol Chem 16:948-967. DOI:

Schultz TW, Cronin MTD. 1997. Quantitative structure-activity relationships for weak acid respiratory uncouplers to Vibrio fisheri. Environ Toxicol Chem 16:357-360. DOI:

Shim J, Weatherly LM, Luc RH, Dorman MT, Neilson A, Ng R, Kim CH, Millard PJ, Gosse JA. 2016. Triclosan is a mitochondrial uncoupler in live zebrafish. J Appl Toxicol 36:1662-1667. DOI: 10.1002/jat.3311.

Sugiyama Y, Shudo T, Hosokawa S, Watanabe A, Nakano M, Kakizuka A. 2019. Emodin, as a mitochondrial uncoupler, induces strong decreases in adenosine triphosphate (ATP) levels and proliferation of B16F10 cells, owing to their poor glycolytic reserve. Genes to Cells 24:569-584. DOI:

Terada H. 1990. Uncouplers of oxidative phosphorylation. Environ Health Perspect 87:213-218. DOI: 10.1289/ehp.9087213.

Troger F, Delp J, Funke M, van der Stel W, Colas C, Leist M, van de Water B, Ecker GF. 2020. Identification of mitochondrial toxicants by combined in silico and in vitro studies – A structure-based view on the adverse outcome pathway. Computational Toxicology 14:100123. DOI:

Weatherly LM, Shim J, Hashmi HN, Kennedy RH, Hess ST, Gosse JA. 2016. Antimicrobial agent triclosan is a proton ionophore uncoupler of mitochondria in living rat and human mast cells and in primary human keratinocytes. Journal of Applied Toxicology 36:777-789. DOI:

Xia M, Huang R, Shi Q, Boyd WA, Zhao J, Sun N, Rice JR, Dunlap PE, Hackstadt AJ, Bridge MF, Smith MV, Dai S, Zheng W, Chu PH, Gerhold D, Witt KL, DeVito M, Freedman JH, Austin CP, Houck KA, Thomas RS, Paules RS, Tice RR, Simeonov A. 2018. Comprehensive analyses and prioritization of Tox21 10K chemicals affecting mitochondrial function by in-depth mechanistic studies. Environ Health Perspect 126:077010. DOI: 10.1289/EHP2589.