The non-dioxin-like PCBs (NDL-PCBs) found in food and human samples have a complex spectrum of adverse effects, but lack a detailed risk assessment. The toxicity profiles of 21 carefully selected PCBs (19 NDL-PCBs) were identified by in vitro screening in 17 different assays on specific endpoints related to neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption and tumor promotion. To ensure that the test results were not affected by polychlorinated dioxins, dibenzofurans or DL-PCB contaminants, the NDL-PCB congeners were thoroughly purified before testing. Principal component analysis (PCA) was used to derive general toxicity profiles from the in vitro screening data. The toxicity profiles indicated different structure-activity relationships (SAR) and distinct mechanisms of action. The analysis also indicated that the NDL-PCBs could be divided into two groups. The first group included generally smaller, ortho-substituted congeners, comprising PCB 28, 47, 51, 52, 53, 95, 100, 101, 104 and 136, with PCB 95, 101 and 136 as generally being most active. The second group comprising PCB 19, 74, 118, 122, 128, 138, 153, 170, 180 and 190 had lower biological activity in many of the assays, except for three endocrine-related assays. The most abundant congeners, PCB 138, 153, 170, 180 and 190, cluster in the second group, and thereby show similar SAR. Two quantitative structure-activity relationship (QSAR) models could be developed that added information to the SAR and could aid in risk assessments of NDL-PCBs. The QSAR models predicted a number of congeners as active and among these e.g., PCB 18, 25, 45 and 49 have been found in food or human samples. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.
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