Polychlorinated and polybrominated biphenyl congeners and retinoid levels in rat tissues: Structure-activity relationships

L. C. Chen, I. Berberian, B. Koch, M. Mercier, V. Azais-Braesco, H. P. Glauert, C. K. Chow, L. W. Robertson

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66 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to examine the structural requirements of polychlorinated and polybrominated biphenyls (PCBs and PBBs) for altering tissue levels of retinoids. Seven congeneric PCBs and PBBs were studied: 3,3′,4,4′-tetrachlorobiphenyl (TCB), 2′,3,3′,4,5- and 3,3′,4,4′,5-pentachlorobiphenyls (-PeCBs), 3,3′,4,4′- and 3,3′,5,5′-tetrabromobiphenyls (-TBBs), 2,2′,3,3′,5,5′-hexachlorobiphenyl (-HCB), and 3,3′,4,4′,5,5′-hexabromobiphenyl (-HBB). Male Sprague-Dawley rats were fed a vitamin A-adequate diet (1.3 mg/kg) for 30 days before being given a single IP injection of one of seven polyhalogenated biphenyls (150 μmol/kg) in corn oil (10 ml/kg) or vehicle alone. Rats were killed 1 week later. Except for 3,3′,4,4′,5,5′-HBB, all PCBs and PBBs studied significantly decreased serum retinol levels and, except for 3,3′,4,4′,5,5′-HBB and 2,2′,3,3′,5,5′-HCB, all PCBs and PBBs also lowered the serum retinol-binding-protein (RBP) content. The activity of hepatic retinyl ester hydrolase (REH) was reduced by the treatment of 3,3′,4,4′,5-PeCB, 3,3′,4,4′-TBB, and 3,3′,4,4′,5,5′-HBB. The levels of hepatic retinol were decreased by 2,2′,3,3′,5,5′-HCB, 2′,3,3′,4,5-PeCB, and 3,3′,4,4′,5-PeCB, while levels of hepatic retinyl palmitate were decreased by 2′,3,3′,4,5-PeCB, 3,3′,4,4′,5-PeCB, 3,3′,4,4′-TCB, 3,3′,4,4′-TBB, and 3,3′,4,4′,5,5′-HBB. The substantial decreases in hepatic retinyl palmitate levels could not be explained solely on the basis of hepatomegaly caused by acutely toxic PCBs and PBBs. All halogenated biphenyls which caused a decrease in hepatic retinyl palmitate also caused an increase in renal retinyl palmitate except 3,3′,4,4′,5-PeCB. In summary, the acutely toxic (nonortho substituted) congeners had pronounced effects on hepatic, renal, and serum retinoids whereas other biphenyls only decreased serum retinol levels. The effects of these seven compounds on REH activity were not correlated with the effects on serum retinol or RBP levels. Therefore, this study shows that the structure-activity relationships for altering hepatic retinoids differ from those for serum retinol, implying the involvemetn of multiple mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-55
Number of pages9
JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1992

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Dr. T. Borges, V. Tatum, S.-Y. Lee, H. Chen, and T. Lay for technical assistance. This study was supported by a grant from NATO (CRG 890526), a Peace Fellowship from the Egyptian Embassy (LB.), and a Dissertation Year Fellowship from the Graduate School of the University of Kentucky (L.C.C.). The critical review of Drs. L. M. De Luca and K. Norum is gratefully acknowledged.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology


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