The principles of quantitative structure-activity relationships (QSAR) are based on the premise that the properties of a chemical are implicit in its molecular structure. Therefore, if a mechanistic hypothesis can be proposed linking a group of related chemicals with a particular toxic end point, the hypothesis can be used to define relevant parameters to establish a QSAR. Ways in which QSAR and in vitro toxicology can complement each other in development of alternatives to live animal experiments are described and illustrated by examples from acute toxicological end points. Integration of QSAR and in vitro methods is examined in the context of assessing mechanistic competence and improving the design of in vitro assays and the development of prediction models. The nature of biological variability is explored together with its implications for the selection of sets of chemicals for test development, optimization, and validation. Methods are described to support the use of data from in vivo tests that do not meet today's stringent requirements of acceptability. Integration of QSAR and in vitro methods into strategic approaches for the replacement, reduction, and refinement of the use of animals is described with examples.