Replacement per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are potent modulators of lipogenic and drug metabolizing gene expression signatures in primary human hepatocytes

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Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of environmental toxicants, and some, such as perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), have been associated with hepatic steatosis in rodents and monkeys. It was hypothesized that perfluorosulfonic acids (C4, 6, 8), perfluorocarboxylic acids (C4–14), perfluoro(2-methyl-3-oxahexanoic) acid (HFPO-DA), 1H, 1H, 2H, 2H-perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (6:2 FTS) along with 3 PFOS precursors could induce expression of lipid metabolism genes and lipid deposition in human hepatocytes. Five-donor pooled cryopreserved human hepatocytes were cultured and treated with 0.1% DMSO vehicle or various PFAS (0.25 to 25 μM) in media. After a 48-h treatment, mRNA transcripts related to lipid transport, metabolism, and synthesis were measured using a Quantigene Plex assay. After 72-h treatments, hepatocytes were stained with Nile Red dye to quantify intracellular lipids. Overall, PFAS were transcriptionally active at 25 μM. In this model, lipid accumulation was not observed with C8-C12 treatments. Shorter chain PFAS (C4-C5), 6:2 FTS, and PFOS precursor, metFOSA, induced significant liver lipid accumulation, and gene activation at lower concentrations than legacy PFAS. In summary short chain PFAS and other alternative PFAS were more potent gene inducers, and potential health effects of replacement PFAS should be critically evaluated in humans.

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Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology