Perfluorinated alkyl acids (PFAAs) represent a broad class of commercial products designed primarily for the coatings industry. However, detection of residues globally in a variety of species led to the discontinuation of production in the U.S. Although PFAAs cause activation of the PPARα and CAR nuclear receptors, interference with mitochondrial bioenergetics has been implicated as an alternative mechanism of cytotoxicity. Although the mechanisms by which the eight carbon chain PFAAs interfere with mitochondrial bioenergetics are fairly well described, the activities of the more highly substituted or shorter chain PFAAs are far less well characterized. The current investigation was designed to explore structure-activity relationships by which PFAAs interfere with mitochondrial respiration in vitro. Freshly isolated rat liver mitochondria were incubated with one of 16 different PFAAs, including perfluorinated carboxylic, acetic, and sulfonic acids, sulfonamides and sulfamido acetates, and alcohols. The effect on mitochondrial respiration was measured at five concentrations and dose-response curves were generated to describe the effects on state 3 and 4 respiration and respiratory control. With the exception of PFOS, all PFAAs at sufficiently high concentrations (>20. μM) stimulated state 4 and inhibited state 3 respiration. Stimulation of state 4 respiration was most pronounced for the carboxylic acids and the sulfonamides, which supports prior evidence that the perfluorinated carboxylic and acetic acids induce the mitochondrial permeability transition, whereas the sulfonamides are protonophoric uncouplers of oxidative phosphorylation. In both cases, potency increased with increasing carbon number, with a prominent inflection point between the six and eight carbon congeners. The results provide a foundation for classifying PFAAs according to specific modes of mitochondrial activity and, in combination with toxicokinetic considerations, establishing structure-activity-based boundaries for initial estimates of risk for noncancer endpoints for PFAAs for which minimal in vivo toxicity testing currently exists.
- Perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAA)