In the present study, relative potency factors (REPs) of 16 individual polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were investigated using the H4IIE-luc bioassay. Exposure time-dependent effects on the REPs were examined using 24, 48, and 72 h of exposure. Seven different mixtures of PAHs were tested for additivity at an exposure time of 24 h. Three of the PAH mixtures were also studied at 48 and 72 h of exposure. The mixture toxicities were predicted using the REP concept and the concentration addition (CA) model. Relative potency factor values investigated in the present study were similar to those reported in earlier studies. Declining REPs with an increasing exposure time were shown for all PAHs, indicating that this bioassay approach could be developed to assess the persistency of aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) agonistic PAHs and in the risk assessment of complex PAH mixtures. The results from the mixture studies indicated that additive interactions of PAHs are time dependent. Generally, 48- and 72-h exposures resulted in biological effects that were similar to the CA and REP model predictions, while these models tended to underestimate the effect, to some extent, in the 24-h exposure, at least for the mixtures containing two to four PAHs. Thus, it cannot be ruled out that in the 24-h exposures, the tested PAH mixtures had slight synergistic effects. Further research is needed to identify and test additional AhR activating PAHs and investigate whether the effects in the H4IIE-luc bioassay are additive for more complex samples containing both PAHs and other AhR-activating contaminants. Also, the observed superinduction of luciferase by PAH-mixes warrants studies of whether this also can occur for relevant AhR-mediated endpoints in vivo. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2012; 31: 1149–1157. © 2012 SETAC
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