• Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon;
  • Aryl hydrocarbon receptor;
  • Cytochrome P4501A1;
  • Luciferase;
  • Induction equivalency


An aryl hydrocarbon (Ah) receptor-based luciferase cell culture bioassay developed to detect 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) and other halogenated aromatics was modified and optimized to detect and quantitate polycyclic aromatics (PAHs). Twenty-four PAHs were analyzed, and subsequent EC50 and EC20 concentrations (based on the median and 20% TCDD maximal response, respectively) and appropriate induction equivalency factors (calculated by comparison to the response obtained with TCDD) were determined from dose-response experiments. Six compounds were shown to be active in the system, with benzo[k]fluoranthene > benz[a,h]anthracene ≈ indeno[1,2,3-cd]pyrene > benzo[a]pyrene > benzo[b]fluoranthene > chrysene. A complex mixture of 16 PAHs was also analyzed using this system, and overall induction equivalency (or I-EQ) of the mixture was shown to be very similar to that predicted from the sum of the activity estimated for each individual PAH. Overall, our results strongly support the use of this system for the detection and relative quantitation of Ah receptor-active PAHs.