Relative lipid content as the sole mechanistic determinant of the adipose tissue:blood partition coefficients of highly lipophilic organic chemicals

Chemosphere. 2000 Apr;40(8):839-43. doi: 10.1016/s0045-6535(99)00279-9.


The adipose tissue:blood partition coefficient (PCat:b) refers to the ratio of chemical concentration or solubility in adipose tissue and blood. The solubility of a chemical in adipose tissue or whole blood is equal to the sum total of its solubility in lipid and water fractions of these matrices. For highly lipophilic organic chemicals (HLOCs, i.e., chemicals with log n-octanol:water partition coefficients (PCo:w) greater than four), their solubility in the water fractions of both tissue and blood is negligible, and therefore their solubility in lipid fractions of tissue and blood alone determines PCat:b. Since the numerical value representing chemical solubility in lipids is likely to be the same for both blood lipids and adipose tissue lipids, the PCat:b values should be hypothetically, equal to the ratio of lipid content of adipose tissue and blood. The objective of the present study was therefore to verify whether the PCat:bs of HLOCs (volatile organics, dioxins, PCBs, PBBs, DDT) are equal to the ratio of adipose tissue and blood lipid levels. The data on lipid content of rat and human blood and adipose tissues were obtained from the literature. The calculated tissue:blood lipid ratios were comparable to the human and rat PCat:b of volatile organic chemicals, dioxins, PCBs, PBBs and/or DDT obtained from the literature. These results then suggest that, regardless of the identity and PCo:w of HLOCs, their PCat:b is equal to the ratio of lipid in adipose tissues and blood.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / chemistry*
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Organic Chemicals / blood
  • Organic Chemicals / pharmacokinetics*
  • Rats
  • Solubility
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Xenobiotics / blood
  • Xenobiotics / pharmacokinetics*


  • Organic Chemicals
  • Xenobiotics