Exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and high-throughput proteomics in Hispanic youth

By Jiawen Carmen Chen, Jesse A Goodrich, Douglas I Walker, Jiawen Liao, Elizabeth Costello, Tanya L Alderete, Damaskini Valvi, Hailey Hampson, Shiwen Li, Brittney O Baumert, Sarah Rock, Dean P Jones, Sandrah P Eckel, Rob McConnell, Frank D Gilliland, Max T Aung, David V Conti, Zhanghua Chen, and Lida Chatzi
Environ Int
March 23, 2024
DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2024.108601


Strong epidemiological evidence shows positive associations between exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and adverse cardiometabolic outcomes (e.g., diabetes, hypertension, and dyslipidemia). However, the underlying cardiometabolic-relevant biological activities of PFAS in humans remain largely unclear.


We evaluated the associations of PFAS exposure with high-throughput proteomics in Hispanic youth.

Material And Methods

We included 312 overweight/obese adolescents from the Study of Latino Adolescents at Risk (SOLAR) between 2001 and 2012, along with 137 young adults from the Metabolic and Asthma Incidence Research (Meta-AIR) between 2014 and 2018. Plasma PFAS (i.e., PFOS, PFOA, PFHxS, PFHpS, PFNA) were quantified using liquid-chromatography high-resolution mass spectrometry. Plasma proteins (n = 334) were measured utilizing the proximity extension assay using an Olink Explore Cardiometabolic Panel I. We conducted linear regression with covariate adjustment to identify PFAS-associated proteins. Ingenuity Pathway Analysis, protein-protein interaction network analysis, and protein annotation were used to investigate alterations in biological functions and protein clusters.


Results after adjusting for multiple comparisons showed 13 significant PFAS-associated proteins in SOLAR and six in Meta-AIR, sharing similar functions in inflammation, immunity, and oxidative stress. In SOLAR, PFNA demonstrated significant positive associations with the largest number of proteins, including ACP5, CLEC1A, HMOX1, LRP11, MCAM, SPARCL1, and SSC5D. After considering the mixture effect of PFAS, only SSC5D remained significant. In Meta-AIR, PFAS mixtures showed positive associations with GDF15 and IL6. Exploratory analysis showed similar findings. Specifically, pathway analysis in SOLAR showed PFOA- and PFNA-associated activation of immune-related pathways, and PFNA-associated activation of inflammatory response. In Meta-AIR, PFHxS-associated activation of dendric cell maturation was found. Moreover, PFAS was associated with common protein clusters of immunoregulatory interactions and JAK-STAT signaling in both cohorts.


PFAS was associated with broad alterations of the proteomic profiles linked to pro-inflammation and immunoregulation. The biological functions of these proteins provide insight into potential molecular mechanisms of PFAS toxicity.

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