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Anal Bioanal Chem. 2010 Jan;396(2):569-83. doi: 10.1007/s00216-009-3310-y. Epub 2009 Nov 29.

Evaluation of an hPXR reporter gene assay for the detection of aquatic emerging pollutants: screening of chemicals and application to water samples.

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INERIS, Unité Ecotoxicologie in vitro et in vivo, Parc ALATA, BP2, f-60550 Verneuil-en-Halatte, France.


Many environmental endocrine-disrupting compounds act as ligands for nuclear receptors. Among these receptors, the human pregnane X receptor (hPXR) is well described as a xenobiotic sensor to various classes of chemicals, including pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and steroids. To assess the potential use of PXR as a sensor for aquatic emerging pollutants, we employed an in vitro reporter gene assay (HG5LN-hPXR cells) to screen a panel of environmental chemicals and to assess PXR-active chemicals in (waste) water samples. Of the 57 compounds tested, 37 were active in the bioassay and 10 were identified as new PXR agonists: triazin pesticides (promethryn, terbuthryn, terbutylazine), pharmaceuticals (fenofibrate, bezafibrate, clonazepam, medazepam) and non co-planar polychlorobiphenyls (PCBs; PCB101, 138, 180). Furthermore, we detected potent PXR activity in two types of water samples: passive polar organic compounds integrative sampler (POCIS) extracts from a river moderately impacted by agricultural and urban inputs and three effluents from sewage treatment works (STW). Fractionation of POCIS samples showed the highest PXR activity in the less polar fraction, while in the effluents, PXR activity was mainly associated with the dissolved water phase. Chemical analyses quantified several PXR-active substances (i.e., alkylphenols, hormones, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, PCBs, bisphenol A) in POCIS fractions and effluent extracts. However, mass-balance calculations showed that the analyzed compounds explained only 0.03% and 1.4% of biological activity measured in POCIS and STW samples, respectively. In effluents, bisphenol A and 4-tert-octylphenol were identified as main contributors of instrumentally derived PXR activities. Finally, the PXR bioassay provided complementary information as compared to estrogenic, androgenic, and dioxin-like activity measured in these samples. This study shows the usefulness of HG5LN-hPXR cells to detect PXR-active compounds in water samples, and further investigation will be necessary to identify the detected active compounds.

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