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Toxicol Lett. 2018 Jul;291:51-60. doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2018.03.029. Epub 2018 Mar 27.

Perfluoroalkylated substances (PFAS) affect neither estrogen and androgen receptor activity nor steroidogenesis in human cells in vitro.

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German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, Department of Food Safety, Max-Dohrn-Str. 8-10, 10589, Berlin, Germany.
German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, Department of Food Safety, Max-Dohrn-Str. 8-10, 10589, Berlin, Germany. Electronic address:


The perfluoroalkylated substances (PFAS) perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are used for the fabrication of water- and dirt-repellent surfaces. The use of PFOS and PFOA was restricted due to their reprotoxic properties and their environmental persistence. Therefore, industry switches to alternative PFAS, however, in contrast to PFOA and PFOS only few toxicological data are available for their substitutes. The molecular mechanism(s) underlying reproductive toxicity of PFOA and PFOS are largely unknown. Here, the endocrine properties of PFOA, PFOS, and of six substitutes including perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS), perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS), perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA), perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA), ammonium perfluoro(2-methyl-3-oxahexanoate) (PMOH), and 3H-perfluoro-3-[(3-methoxypropoxy) propanoic acid] (PMPP) were examined in vitro by using human cell lines such as MCF-7, H295R, LNCaP and MDA-kb2. PFOA, PFOS and PMOH enhanced 17β-estradiol-stimulated estrogen receptor β activity, and PFOS, PMOH, PFHxA and PFBA enhanced dihydrotestosterone-stimulated androgen receptor activity. In the H295R steroidogenesis assay, PFOA and PFOS slightly enhanced estrone secretion, and progesterone secretion was marginally increased by PFOA. All these effects were only observed at concentrations above 10 μM, and none of the PFAS displayed any effect on any of the molecular endocrine endpoints at concentrations of 10 μM or below. Thus, as the blood serum concentrations of the different PFAS in the general Western population are in the range of 10 nM or below, the results suggest that PFAS might not exert endocrine effects in humans at exposure-relevant concentrations according to the molecular endpoints examined in this study.


Androgen receptor; Estrogen receptor; PFOA; PFOS; Perfluoroalkylated substances (PFAS); Steroidogenesis

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