Off-target profiling of tofacitinib and baricitinib by machine learning: a focus on thrombosis and viral infection.

11 August 2021, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Objectives: There are no clear on-target mechanisms that explain the increased risk for thrombosis and viral infection or reactivation associated with Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors. We aimed to identify and validate off-target binding effects of the JAK inhibitors baricitinib and tofacitinib using computational and experimental methods. Methods: Potential biological targets of baricitinib and tofacitinib were predicted using two established computational methods. Targets related to thrombosis or viral infection/reactivation were experimentally validated using biochemical and cell-based in vitro assays. Results: Overall, 98 targets were predicted by the computational methods (baricitinib n=41; tofacitinib n=58), of which 17 drug-target pairs were related to thrombosis (n=10) or viral infection/reactivation (n=7), and 11 were commercially available for in vitro analysis. Inhibitory activity was identified in vitro for four drug-target pairs – two related to thrombosis in the micromolar range (phosphodiesterase 10A [baricitinib], transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily M subtype 6 [tofacitinib]) and two related to viral infection/reactivation in the nanomolar range (Serine/threonine protein kinase N2 [baricitinib, tofacitinib]). Conclusions: Previously unknown off-target interactions for the two JAK inhibitors were identified. The proposed pharmacological off-target effects include attenuation of pulmonary vascular remodeling, modulation of Hepatitis C viral response and hypomagnesemia. Off-target effects related to an increased risk of thrombosis or viral infection/reactivation for baricitinib and tofacitinib were not identified. Further clinical and experimental research is required to explain the observed thrombosis and viral infection/reactivation risk.


JAK inhibitor
off-target effect
drug safety
drug repurposing

Supplementary materials

Online supplementary material (" Off-target profiling of tofacitinib and baricitinib by machine learning: a focus on thrombosis and viral infection")
Online supplementary material 1-5 and Online supplementary table 1-3


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