Simply forever: Tackling PFAS complexity through mode of action assignment

Lead Research Organisation: UK CENTRE FOR ECOLOGY & HYDROLOGY
Department Name: Pollution (Wallingford)


Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a heterogenous group of contaminants of global concern. Currently, the risks posed by specific PFAS, especially in terrestrial environments, are poorly understood. Weak correlations between structure, chemical properties and toxicological effects (which may limit read-across and the use of QSARs) means new approaches are needed that can identify the more hazardous PFAS and further can support grouping for exposure and hazard assessment.

Working with 3 phylogenetically distant terrestrial taxa, we will study how 16 carefully selected PFAS from four classes bioaccumulate; interact with potential target sites (e.g. PPAR and other receptors), and how such interactions disrupt gene expression networks and metabolic systems. This integrated analysis will allow us to develop new physiological models of toxicity that can be used to classify PFAS by uptake patterns and mechanisms of action in different terrestrial species representing major branches of the tree of life. The ambitious objective of linking exposure and uptake with mechanistic toxicology at the gene and metabolite level is now tractable at the proposed scale due to the recent explosion of genome availability, increased transcriptomic and metabolomic throughput and advances in biostatistics.

In this project we will develop a mechanism of action based compound grouping for PFAS by integrating the transcriptomic, metabolic, cellular and apical effects of exposure on 3 taxonomically diverse terrestrial species.


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