Binary Mixtures of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons Display Nonadditive Mixture Interactions in anIn VitroLiver Cell Model

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Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) have been labeled contaminants of concern due to their carcinogenic potential, insufficient toxicological data, environmental ubiquity, and inconsistencies in the composition of environmental mixtures. The Environmental Protection Agency is reevaluating current methods for assessing the toxicity of PAHs, including the assumption of toxic additivity in mixtures. This study was aimed at testing mixture interactions through in vitro cell culture experimentation, and modeling the toxicity using quantitative structure-activity relationships (QSAR). Clone-9 rat liver cells were used to analyze cellular proliferation, viability, and genotoxicity of 15 PAHs in single doses and binary mixtures. Tests revealed that many mixtures have nonadditive toxicity, but display varying mixture effects depending on the mixture composition. Many mixtures displayed antagonism, similar to other published studies. QSARs were then developed using the genetic function approximation algorithm to predict toxic activity both in single PAH congeners and in binary mixtures. Effective concentrations inhibiting 50% of the cell populations were modeled, with R2 = 0.90, 0.99, and 0.84, respectively. The QSAR mixture algorithms were then adjusted to account for the observed mixture interactions as well as the mixture composition (ratios) to assess the feasibility of QSARs for mixtures. Based on these results, toxic addition is improbable and therefore environmental PAH mixtures are likely to see nonadditive responses when complex interactions occur between components. Furthermore, QSAR may be a useful tool to help bridge these data gaps surrounding the assessment of human health risks that are associated with PAH exposures.

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