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Poly- and Perfluoroalkyl Substances Induce Immunotoxicity via the TLR Pathway in Zebrafish: Links to Carbon Chain Length

Tang L, Qiu W, Zhang S, Wang J, Yang X, Xu B, Magnuson JT, Xu EG, Wu M, Zheng C
Environ Sci Technol. 2023;57(15): 6139–49. doi:10.1021/acs.est.2c09716. Online ahead of print
Previous studies have reported the immunotoxicity of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), but it remains a significant challenge to assess over 10,000 distinct PFASs registered in the distributed structure-searchable toxicity (DSSTox) database. We aim to reveal the mechanisms of immunotoxicity of different PFASs and hypothesize that PFAS immunotoxicity is dependent on the carbon chain length. Perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBA), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), and perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) representing different carbon chain lengths (4-9) at environmentally relevant levels strongly reduced the host's antibacterial ability during the zebrafish's early-life stage. Innate and adaptive immunities were both suppressed after PFAS exposures, exhibiting a significant induction of macrophages and neutrophils and expression of immune-related genes and indicators. Interestingly, the PFAS-induced immunotoxic responses were positively correlated to the carbon chain length. Moreover, PFASs activated downstream genes of the toll-like receptor (TLR), uncovering a seminal role of TLR in PFAS immunomodulatory effects. Myeloid differentiation factor 88 (MyD88) morpholino knock-down experiments and MyD88 inhibitors alleviated the immunotoxicity of PFASs. Overall, the comparative results demonstrate differences in the immunotoxic responses of PFASs due to carbon chain length in zebrafish, providing new insights into the prediction and classification of PFASs mode of toxic action based on carbon chain length.
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