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High-throughput transcriptomics and benchmark concentration modeling for potency ranking of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in exposed human liver cell spheroids

By Anthony J F Reardon, Andrea Rowan-Carroll, Stephen S. Ferguson, Karen Leingartner, Remi Gagne, Byron Kuo, Andrew Williams, Luigi Lorusso, Julie Bourdon-Lacombe, Richard Carrier, Ivy Moffat, Carole L. Yauk, Ella Atlas

Posted 21 Oct 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.10.20.347328

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are some of the most prominent organic contaminants in human blood. Although the toxicological implications from human exposure to perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) are well established, data on lesser-understood PFAS are limited. New approach methodologies (NAMs) that apply bioinformatic tools to high-throughput data are being increasingly considered to inform risk assessment for data-poor chemicals. The aim of this investigation was to identify biological response potencies (i.e., benchmark concentrations: BMCs) following PFAS exposures to inform read-across for risk assessment of data-poor PFAS. Gene expression changes were measured in primary human liver cell microtissues (i.e., 3D spheroids) after 1-day and 10-day exposures to increasing concentrations of 23 PFAS. The cells were treated with four subgroups of PFAS: carboxylates (PFCAs), sulfonates (PFSAs), fluorotelomers, and sulfonamides. An established pipeline to identify differentially expressed genes and transcriptomic BMCs was applied. We found that both PFCAs and PFSAs exhibited a trend toward increased transcriptional changes with carbon chain-length. Specifically, longer-chain compounds (7 to 10 carbons) were more likely to induce changes in gene expression, and have lower transcriptional BMCs. The combined high-throughput transcriptomic and bioinformatic analyses supports the capability of NAMs to efficiently assess the effects of PFAS in liver microtissues. The data enable potency ranking of PFAS for human liver cell spheroid cytotoxicity and transcriptional changes, and assessment of in vitro transcriptomic points of departure. These data improve our understanding of the health effects of PFAS and will be used to inform read-across for human health risk assessment. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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