Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) modify lung surfactant function and pro-inflammatory responses in human bronchial epithelial cells

By Jorid B Sørli, Marit Låg, Leni Ekeren, Jesus Perez-Gil, Line S Haug, Emilie Da Silva, Muhammad N Matrod, Kristine B Gützkow, and Birgitte Lindeman
Toxicol In Vitro
September 24, 2019
DOI: 10.1016/j.tiv.2019.104656

The toxicity of some per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), such as perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) has been studied thoroughly, showing that systemic PFASs targets the lungs. However, regulators lack data to assess the impact of other PFASs on the lungs and alternative methods to test substances for lung toxicity are needed. We combined two in vitro models to assess toxicity to the respiratory system; i) a lung surfactant (LS) function assay to assess the acute inhalation toxicity potential, and ii) a cell model with human bronchial epithelial cells to study pro-inflammatory potential and modulation of inflammatory responses. We tested salts of four PFASs: perfluorobutane sulfonate (PFBS), perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS), PFOS, and PFOA as well as the fluorotelomer 8:2 FTOH. The results show that PFHxS, PFOA and PFOS can inhibit LS function. High PFOS concentrations induced a pro-inflammatory response, measured as increased IL-1α/β release. Moderate concentrations of PFOS suppressed release of the chemokines CXCL8 and CXCL10, whereas both PFOS and PFOA stimulated the release of the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-1β in immune stimulated human bronchial epithelial cells. These findings support the concern that some PFASs may increase the risk of acute lung toxicity and of airway infections.

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