The estrogenic activities of 17β-estradiol, biphenyl, chlorinated biphenyls, and Aroclor mixtures 1221, 1242, and 1248 were measured with a modified recombinant yeast estrogen assay (i.e., a Saccharomyces cerevisiae-based lac-Z (β-galactosidase) reporter assay). Modifications of the assay included the use of glass vials instead of plastic microtiter plates and the addition of the medium and yeast before the test substrate.14C-labeled compounds were used to follow improvements in the assay procedures.14C-17β-estradiol recovery from plastic microtiter plates and glass vials using the standard or the modified procedure was approximately 89%. However,14C-4-CB (4-chlorobiphenyl) recovery was considerably less, ranging from 3% in plastic microtiter plates using the standard procedure to 26% in vials using the modified procedure. These results suggest that the toxicity of strongly hydrophobic chemicals may be underestimated. Using the modified yeast estrogen assay, full agonist activity was observed for 4-CB, 2,4,6-CB, and 2,5-CB while each of the Aroclor mixtures were only partial agonists. The equivalent EC50values in ppm were in environmentally relevant concentrations for biphenyl (19 ppm), 4-CB (4.5 ppm), 2,5-CB (21 ppm), 2,4,6-CB (0.8 ppm), Aroclor 1221 (2.9 ppm), Aroclor 1242 (0.65 ppm), and Aroclor 1248 (2.3 ppm). Estrogen receptor binding for the individual PCB congeners was 25- to 650-fold less than the reported estrogen binding for the corresponding hydroxylated PCB metabolite. Gas chromatographic/mass spectrometric analysis of yeast extracts indicated that S. cerevisiae hydroxylated the individual PCB congeners in the ppb range. With the exception of biphenyl, the concentration of hydroxylated metabolites obtained from incubation of S. cerevisiae with PCB congeners was consistent with the concentration necessary to elicit a positive estrogen receptor-binding response. This work provides evidence that S. cerevisiae are capable of metabolic transformation of PCBs and that estrogen receptor binding of PCBs is mediated through the hydroxylated metabolite rather than through the direct interaction of the PCB congeners with the estrogen receptor. © 2002 Elsevier Science (USA).
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