PCBs: structure–function relationships and mechanism of action

TitlePCBs: structure–function relationships and mechanism of action
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1985
AuthorsSafe, S, Bandiera, S, Sawyer, T, Robertson, L, Safe, L, Parkinson, A, Thomas, PE, Ryan, DE, Reik, LM, Levin, W, Denomme, MAnne, Fujita, T
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Pagination47 - 56
Date Published1985/05/01

Numerous reports have illustrated the versatility of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and related halogenated aromatics as inducers of drug-metabolizing enzymes and the activity of individual compounds are remarkably dependent on structure. The most active PCB congeners, 3,4,4′,5-tetra-, 3,3′,4,4′-tetra-, 3,3′,4,4′,5-penta- and 3,3′,4,4′,5,5′-hexachlorobiphenyl, are substituted at both para and at two or more meta positions. The four coplanar PCBs resembled 3-methylcholanthrene (3-MC) and 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (2,3,7,8-TCDD) in their mode of induction of the hepatic drug-metabolizing enzymes. These compounds induced rat hepatic microsomal benzo(a)pyrene hydroxylase (aryl hydrocarbon hydroxylase, AHH) and cytochromes P-450a, P-450c and P-450d. 3,4,4′,5-Tetrachlorobiphenyl, the least active coplanar PCB, also induced dimethylaminoantipyrine N-demethylase and cytochromes P-450b+e and resembled Aroclor 1254 as an inducer of the mixed-function oxidase system. Like Aroclor 1254, all the mono-ortho- and at least eight di-ortho-chloro analogs of the coplanar PCBs exhibited a “mixed-type” induction pattern and induced microsomal AHH, dimethylaminoantipyrine NM-demethylase and cytochromes P-450a–P-450e. Quantative structure–activity relationships (QSARs) within this series of PCBs were determined by comparing their AHH induction potencies (EC50) in rat hepatoma H-4-II-E cells and their binding affinities (ED50) for the 2,3,7,8-TCDD cytosolic receptor protein. The results showed that there was an excellent correlation between AHH induction potencies and receptor binding avidities of these compounds and the order of activity was coplanar PCBs (3,3′,4,4′-tetra-, 3,3′,4,4′,5-penta- and 3,3′,4,4′,5,5′-hexachlorobiphenyls) > 3,4,4′,5-tetrachlorobiphenyl ~ mono-ortho coplanar PCBs > di-ortho coplanar PCBs. It was also apparent that the relative toxicities of this group of PCBs paralleled their biological potencies.

The coplanar and mono-ortho coplanar PCBs also exhibit differential effects in the inbred C57BL/6J and DBA/2J mice. These compounds induce AHH and cause thymic atrophy in the former “responsive” mice whereas at comparable or higher doses none of these effects are observed in the nonresponsive DBD/2J mice. Since the responsiveness of these two mice strains is due to the presence of the Ah receptor protein in the C57BL/6J mice and its relatively low concentration in the DBA/2J mice, the results for the PCB cogeners support the proposed receptor-mediated mechanism of action.

Although the precise structural requirements for ligand binding to the receptor have not been delineated, the halogenated aromatic hydrocarbons which exhibit the highest binding affinities for the receptor protein are approximate isostereomers of 2,3,7,8-TCDD. 2,3,4,4′,5-Pentachlorobiphenyl elicits effects which are qualitatively similar to that of TCDD and the presence of the lateral 4′-substituent is required for this activity. Thus the 4′-substituted 2,3,4,5-tetrachlorobiphenyls have been used as probes for determining the substituent characteristics which favor binding to the receptor protein. Multiple regression analysis of the competitive binding EC50 values for 13 substituents gave the following equation: log (1/EC50) = 1.53σ + 1.47π + 1.09 HB + 4.08 where σ is electronegativity, π is hydrophobicity, HB is hydrogen bonding and r is the correlation coefficient (r = 0.978). The utility of this equation in describing ligand:receptor interactions and correlations with toxicity are being studied with other halogenated hydrocarbons and PAHs.

Short TitleEnvironmental Health Perspectives