Probing the Interactions of Perfluorocarboxylic Acids of Various Chain Lengths with Human Serum Albumin: Calorimetric and Spectroscopic Investigations

Document Type


Date of Original Version



Despite an exponential increase in PFAS research over the past two decades, the mechanisms behind how PFAS cause adverse health effects are still poorly understood. Protein interactions are considered a significant driver of bioaccumulation and subsequent toxicity from re-exposure; however, most of the available literature is limited to legacy PFAS. We utilized microcalorimetric and spectroscopic methods to systematically investigate the binding between human serum albumin (HSA) and perfluorocarboxylic acids (PFCAs) of varying chain lengths and their nonfluorinated fatty acid (FA) counterparts. The results reveal the optimal chain length for significant PFCA-HSA binding and some fundamental interactions, i.e., the polar carboxylic head of PFCA is countered by ionizable amino acids such as arginine, and the fluorocarbon tails stabilized by hydrophobic residues like leucine and valine. Additionally, fluorine’s unique polarizability contributes to PFCA’s stronger binding affinities relative to the corresponding fatty acids. Based on these observations, we posit that PFCAs likely bind to HSA in a “cavity-filling” manner, provided they have an appropriate size and shape to accommodate the electrostatic interactions. The results reported herein widen the pool of structural information to explain PFAS bioaccumulation patterns and toxicity and support the development of more accurate computational modeling of protein-PFAS interactions. TOC graphic created with Biorender.com.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Chemical Research in Toxicology