Understanding the dynamics of physiological changes, protein expression, and PFAS in wildlife
By Jacqueline Bangma, T C Guillette, Paige A Bommarito, Carla Ng, Jessica L Reiner, Andrew B Lindstrom, and Mark J Strynar
December 20, 2021
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) accumulation and elimination in both wildlife and humans is largely attributed to PFAS interactions with proteins, including but not limited to organic anion transporters (OATs), fatty acid binding proteins (FABPs), and serum proteins such as albumin. In wildlife, changes in the biotic and abiotic environment (e.g. salinity, temperature, reproductive stage, and health status) often lead to dynamic and responsive physiological changes that alter the prevalence and location of many proteins, including PFAS-related proteins. Therefore, we hypothesize that if key PFAS-related proteins are impacted as a result of environmentally induced as well as biologically programmed physiological changes (e.g. reproduction), then PFAS that associate with those proteins will also be impacted. Changes in tissue distribution across tissues of PFAS due to these dynamics may have implications for wildlife studies where these chemicals are measured in biological matrices (e.g., serum, feathers, eggs). For example, failure to account for factors contributing to PFAS variability in a tissue may result in exposure misclassification as measured concentrations may not reflect average exposure levels. The goal of this review is to share general information with the PFAS research community on what biotic and abiotic changes might be important to consider when designing and interpreting a biomonitoring or an ecotoxicity based wildlife study. This review will also draw on parallels from the epidemiological discipline to improve study design in wildlife research. Overall, understanding these connections between biotic and abiotic environments, dynamic protein levels, PFAS levels measured in wildlife, and epidemiology serves to strengthen study design and study interpretation and thus strengthen conclusions derived from wildlife studies for years to come.