Isomer-Specific Binding Affinity of Perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) to Serum Proteins

Environ Sci Technol. 2015 May 5;49(9):5722-31. doi: 10.1021/es505399w. Epub 2015 Apr 13.


Perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) are among the most prominent contaminants in human serum, and these were historically manufactured as technical mixtures of linear and branched isomers. The isomers display unique pharmacokinetics in humans and in animal models, but molecular mechanisms underlying isomer-specific PFOS and PFOA disposition have not previously been studied. Here, ultrafiltration devices were used to examine (i) the dissociation constants (Kd) of individual PFOS and PFOA isomers with human serum albumin (HSA) and (ii) relative binding affinity of isomers in technical mixtures spiked to whole calf serum and human serum. Measurement of HSA Kd's demonstrated that linear PFOS (Kd=8(±4)×10(-8) M) was much more tightly bound than branched PFOS isomers (Kd range from 8(±1)×10(-5) M to 4(±2)×10(-4) M). Similarly, linear PFOA (Kd=1(±0.9)×10(-4) M) was more strongly bound to HSA compared to branched PFOA isomers (Kd range from 4(±2)×10(-4) M to 3(±2)×10(-4) M). The higher binding affinities of linear PFOS and PFOA to total serum protein were confirmed when both calf serum and human serum were spiked with technical mixtures. Overall, these data provide a mechanistic explanation for the longer biological half-life of PFOS in humans, compared to PFOA, and for the higher transplacental transfer efficiencies and renal clearance of branched PFOS and PFOA isomers, compared to the respective linear isomer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alkanesulfonic Acids / chemistry
  • Alkanesulfonic Acids / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Caprylates / chemistry
  • Caprylates / metabolism*
  • Cattle
  • Fluorocarbons / chemistry
  • Fluorocarbons / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Isomerism
  • Kinetics
  • Serum / metabolism
  • Serum Albumin / metabolism*


  • Alkanesulfonic Acids
  • Caprylates
  • Fluorocarbons
  • Serum Albumin
  • perfluorooctanoic acid
  • perfluorooctane sulfonic acid