Aryl hydrocarbon receptor-mediated activity of mutagenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons determined using in vitro reporter gene assay
Activation of aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) by 30 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) was determined in the chemical-activated luciferase expression (CALUX) assay, using two exposure times (6 and 24 h), in order to reflect the metabolization of PAHs. AhR-inducing potencies of PAHs were expressed as induction equivalency factors (IEFs) relative to benzo[a]pyrene and 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). In 24h exposure assay, the highest IEFs were found for benzo[k]fluoranthene, dibenzo[a,h]anthracene and dibenzo[a,k]fluoranthene (approximately three orders of magnitude lower than TCDD) followed by dibenzo[a,j]anthracene, benzo[j]fluoranthene, indeno[1,2,3-cd]pyrene, and naphtho[2,3-a]pyrene. The 6 h exposure to PAHs led to a significantly higher AhR-mediated activity than the 24 h exposure (generally by two orders of magnitude), probably due to the high rate of PAH metabolism. The strongest AhR inducers showed IEFs approaching that of TCDD. Several PAHs, including some strong mutagens, such as dibenzo[a,l]pyrene, cyclopenta[cd]pyrene, and benzo[a]perylene, elicited only partial agonist activity. Calculation of IEFs based on EC25 values and/or 6 h exposure data is suggested as an alternative approach to estimation of toxic potencies of PAHs with high metabolic rates and/or the weak AhR agonists. The IEFs, together with the recently reported relative mutagenic potencies of PAHs [Mutat. Res. 371 (1996) 123; Mutat, Res. 446 (1999) 1] were combined with data on concentrations of PAHs in extracts of model environmental samples (river sediments) to calculate AhR-mediated induction equivalents and mutagenic equivalents. The highest AhR-mediated induction equivalents were found for benzo[k]fluoranthene and benzo[j]fluoranthene, followed by indeno[1,2,3-cd]pyrene, dibenzo[a,h]anthracene, benzo[a]pyrene, dibenzo[a,j]anthracene, chrysene, and benzo [b]fluoranthene. High mutagenic equivalents in the river sediments were found for benzo[a]pyrene, dibenzo[a,e]pyrene, and naphtho[2,3-a]pyrene and to a lesser extent also for benzo[a] anthracene, benzo[b]fluoranthene, indeno[1,2,3-cd]pyrene, benzo[j]fluoranthene, dibenzo[a,e]fluoranthene and dibenzo[a,i]pyrene. These data illustrate that AhR-mediated activity of PAHs, including the highly mutagenic compounds, occurring in the environment but not routinely monitored, could significantly contribute to their adverse effects. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.