Polybrominated biphenyls as aryl hydrocarbon hydroxylase inducers: structure-activity correlations

L. W. Robertson, A. Parkinson, M. A. Campbell, S. Safe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


The synthesis of all possible laterally-substituted polybrominated biphenyl (PBB) congeners containing two para bromines is described. Using enzymic, electrophoretic and ligand-binding assays that distinguish between phenobarbitone(PB)- and 3-methylcholanthrene(MC)-type inducers, the synthetic PBBs were evaluated as inducers of liver microsomal drug-metabolizing enzymes in the immature male Wistar rat. 4,4′-Dibromobiphenyl resembled PB in its mode of induction whereas all the meta-brominated derivatives of 4,4′-dibromobiphenyl, namely 3,4,4′-tri-, 3,4,4′,5-tetra-, 3,3′, 4,4′-tetra-, 3,3′,4,4′,5-penta- and 3,3′,4,4′,5,5′-hexabromobiphenyl, resembled MC in their mode of induction. The results obtained with 3,4,4′-tribromobiphenyl demonstrate that, in contrast to the polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a single meta halogen substituent is sufficient to abolish the PB-type characteristics of 4,4′-dibromobiphenyl and convert it to a strictly MC-type inducer. PBBs which induce AHH activity must be substituted at both para positions and at one, two, three or four meta positions. Ortho-substitution of PBBs which contain only lateral bromine groups may also give compounds which are aryl hydrocarbon hydroxylase (AHH) inducers. One of the MC-type PBBs, namely 3,3′,4,4′-tetrabromobiphenyl, which has been tentatively identified in the commercial PBB mixture, fireMaster BP-6, was at least 50 times more potentias an inducer of AHH activity than the commercial PBB mixture. The induction of AHH by 3,3′,4,4′-tetrabromobiphenyl was accompanied by a dose-dependent decrease in both thymus and spleen weights. The thymus and/or spleen weights were decreased in rats treated with the other MC-type PBBs which further supports the correlation between the toxicity of the PBBs and their ability to induce AHH.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-66
Number of pages14
JournalChemico-Biological Interactions
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 1982


  • Aryl hydrocarbon hydroxylase
  • Benzo[a]pyrene hydroxylase
  • Cytochrome P-450
  • Drug-metabolizing enzymes
  • Enzyme induction
  • Polybrominated biphenyl
  • SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis
  • Thymic involution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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