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Environ Sci Process Impacts. 2013 Apr;15(4):702-8. doi: 10.1039/c3em00023k.

Molecular toxicology of polybrominated diphenyl ethers: nuclear hormone receptor mediated pathways.

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  • 1State Key Laboratory of Environmental Chemistry and Eco-toxicology, Research Centre for Eco-environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100085, China.


Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are used in large quantities as flame retardant additives in commercial products. Bio-monitoring data show that PBDE concentrations have increased rapidly in the bodies of wildlife and human over the last few decades. Based on the studies on experimental animals, the toxicological endpoints of exposure to PBDEs are likely to be thyroid homeostasis disruption, neuro-developmental deficits, reproductive ineffectiveness and even cancer. Unfortunately, the available molecular toxicological evidence for these endpoints is still very limited. This review focuses on the recent studies on the molecular mechanisms of PBDE toxicities carried out through the hormone receptor pathways, including thyroid hormone receptor, estrogen receptor, androgen receptor, progesterone receptor and aryl hydrocarbon receptor pathways. The general approach in the mechanistic investigation is to examine the in vitro direct binding of a PBDE with a receptor, the in vitro recruitment of a co-activator or co-repressor by the ligand-bound receptor, and the participation of the ligand in the receptor-mediated transcription pathways in cells. It is hoped that further studies in this area would provide more insights into the potential risks of PBDEs to human health.

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