Toxicity of the flame-retardant BDE-49 on brain mitochondria and neuronal progenitor striatal cells enhanced by a PTEN-deficient background

Toxicol Sci. 2013 Mar;132(1):196-210. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfs339. Epub 2013 Jan 3.


Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) represent an important group of flame retardants extensively used, tonnage of which in the environment has been steadily increasing over the past 25 years. PBDEs or metabolites can induce neurotoxicity and mitochondrial dysfunction (MD) through a variety of mechanisms. Recently, PBDEs with < 5 Br substitutions (i.e., 2,2',4,4'-tetrabromodiphenyl ether [BDE-47] and 2,2',4,5'-tetrabromodiphenyl ether [BDE-49]) have gained interest because of their high bioaccumulation. In particular, congeners such as BDE-49 arise as one of the most biologically active, with concentrations typically lower than those observed for BDE-47 in biological tissues; however, its potential to cause MD at biologically relevant concentrations is unknown. To this end, the effect of BDE-49 was studied in brain mitochondria and neuronal progenitor striatal cells (NPC). BDE-49 uncoupled mitochondria at concentrations < 0.1 nM, whereas at > 1 nM, it inhibited the electron transport at Complex V (mixed type inhibition; IC(50) = 6 nM) and Complex IV (noncompetitive inhibition; IC(50) = 40 nM). These concentrations are easily achieved in plasma concentrations considering that BDE-49 (this study, 400-fold) and other PBDEs accumulate 1-3 orders of magnitude in the cells, particularly in mitochondria and microsomes. Similar effects were observed in NPC and exacerbated with PTEN (negative modulator of the PI3K/Akt pathway) deficiency, background associated with autism-like behavior, schizophrenia, and epilepsy. PBDE-mediated MD per se or enhanced by a background that confers susceptibility to this exposure may have profound implications in the energy balance of brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Corpus Striatum / drug effects*
  • Corpus Striatum / metabolism
  • Flame Retardants / toxicity*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mitochondria / drug effects*
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Neural Stem Cells / drug effects*
  • Neural Stem Cells / metabolism
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase / genetics*


  • Flame Retardants
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase
  • Pten protein, mouse