A review of omics-based PFAS exposure studies reveals common biochemical response pathways

David J. Beale, Georgia M. Sinclair, Rohan Shah, Amy M. Paten, Anupama Kumar, Sara M. Long, Suzanne Vardy, Oliver A.H. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a diverse group of man-made chemicals with a range of industrial applications and which are widespread in the environment. They are structurally diverse but comprise a common chemical feature of at least one (though usually more) perfluorocarbon moiety (–CnF2n–) attached to a functional group such as a carboxylic or sulphonic acid. The strength of the Carbon-Fluorine bond means the compounds do not break down easily and can thus bioaccumulate. PFAS are of high concern to regulators and the public due to their potential toxicity and high persistence. At high exposure levels, PFAS have been implicated in a range of harmful effects on human and environmental health, particularly problems in/with development, cholesterol and endocrine disruption, immune system function, and oncogenesis. However, most environmental toxicology studies use far higher levels of PFAS than are generally found in the environment. Additionally, since the type of exposure, the PFAS used, and the organisms tested all vary between studies, so do the results. Traditional ecotoxicology studies may thus not identify PFAS effects at environmentally relevant exposures. Here we conduct a review of omics-based PFAS exposure studies using laboratory ecotoxicological methodologies and environmentally relevant exposure levels and show that common biochemical response pathways are identified in multiple studies. A major pathway identified was the pentose phosphate shunt pathway. Such molecular markers of sublethal PFAS exposure will greatly benefit accurate and effective risk assessments to ensure that new PFAS regulations can consider the full effects of PFAS exposure on environmental and human health receptors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number157255
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2022


  • Ecotoxicology
  • Environmental management
  • Lipidomics
  • Metabolomics
  • PFOA
  • PFOS
  • Proteomics
  • Risk assessment


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