Combined Exposure to Organochlorines

Mixtures of Four Organochlorines Enhance Human Breast Cancer Cell Proliferation

Joachim Payne,1 Martin Scholze,2 and Andreas Kortenkamp1

1Centre for Toxicology, Department of Pharmacology, School of Pharmacy, University of London, London, United Kingdom 2Department of Biology and Chemistry, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany

Abstract In view of the large differences between the concentrations of estrogenic chemicals needed to elicit effects in in vitro assays and their levels in human tissues, it is hard to explain possible health risks in terms of exposure to individual compounds.

Human populations, however, are exposed to mixtures of estrogenic and estrogen-like agents and it is necessary to consider the impact of combined effects. We assessed the combined effects of 1-(o-chlorophenyl)-1-(p-chlorophenyl)-2,2,2-trichloroethane (o,p-DDT), 2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)-1,1-dichloroethylene (p,p-DDE), -hexachlorocyclohexane (-HCH), and 1,1-bis(p-chlorophenyl)-2,2,2-trichloroethane (p,p-DDT) on the induction of cell proliferation in MCF-7 cells.

All four compounds are persistent organochlorines that can be found in human tissues. We performed extensive concentration-response analyses with the single agents to predict the effects of two mixtures of all four compounds with different mixture ratios.

We calculated the predictions by using the pharmacologically well-founded models of concentration addition and independent action and then tested them experimentally. o,p-DDT, p,p-DDE, -HCH, and p,p-DDT acted together to produce proliferative effects in MCF-7 cells.

The combined effect of the four agents could be predicted on the basis of data about single agent concentration-response relationships. Regression analysis demonstrated that there were combination effects even when each mixture component was present at levels at or below its individual no-observed-effect-concentration.

We assessed combination effects in two ways: First, evaluations in relation to the proliferative responses induced by single mixture components revealed that the combination effects were stronger than the effects of the most potent constituent.

Thus, according to this method of evaluation, the combined effects may be termed synergistic. Second, comparisons with the expected effects, as predicted by concentration addition and independent action, showed excellent agreement between prediction and observation.

With this approach, the combined effect of all four compounds can be termed additive.

Environ Health Perspect 109:391-397 (2001). Environmental Health Perspectives Volume 109, Number 4, April 2001


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