Chappell GA, Thompson CM, Wolf JC, Cullen JM, Klaunig JE, Haws LC. 2020. Assessment of the mode of action underlying the effects of GenX in mouse liver and implications for assessing human health risks. Toxicol Pathol 48(3):494–508, doi: 10.1177/0192623320905803. PMID: 32138627.
GenX is an alternative to environmentally persistent long-chain perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances. Mice exposed to GenX exhibit liver hypertrophy, elevated peroxisomal enzyme activity, and other apical endpoints consistent with peroxisome proliferators. To investigate the potential role of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (PPARα) activation in mice, and other molecular signals potentially related to observed liver changes, RNA sequencing was conducted on paraffin-embedded liver sections from a 90-day subchronic toxicity study of GenX conducted in mice. Differentially expressed genes were identified for each treatment group, and gene set enrichment analysis was conducted using gene sets that represent biological processes and known canonical pathways. Peroxisome signaling and fatty acid metabolism were among the most significantly enriched gene sets in both sexes at 0.5 and 5 mg/kg GenX; no pathways were enriched at 0.1 mg/kg. Gene sets specific to the PPARα subtype were significantly enriched. These findings were phenotypically anchored to histopathological changes in the same tissue blocks: hypertrophy, mitoses, and apoptosis. In vitro PPARα transactivation assays indicated that GenX activates mouse PPARα. These results indicate that the liver changes observed in GenX-treated mice occur via a mode of action (MOA) involving PPARα, an important finding for human health risk assessment as this MOA has limited relevance to humans.