Assessment of the Endocrine-Disrupting Effects of Trichloroethylene and Its Metabolites Using in Vitro and in Silico Approaches

Environ Sci Technol. 2018 Feb 6;52(3):1542-1550. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.7b04832. Epub 2018 Jan 19.


Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a ubiquitous environmental contaminant, which may have effects on both ecosystem and human health. TCE has been reported to cause several toxic effects, but little effort has been made to assess the ecological risks of TCE or its major metabolites: trichloroethanol (TCOH), trichloroacetic acid, and oxalic acid (OA). In this study, the endocrine-disrupting potential of TCE and its metabolites were investigated using in vitro and in silico approaches. We examined alterations in the steroidogenesis pathway using the NCI-H295R cell line and utilized receptor-mediated luciferase reporter cell lines to identify effects on estrogen and androgen receptors. Molecular docking was also used to explore chemical interactions with these receptors. All test chemicals except OA significantly increased 17β-estradiol production which can be attributed to an up-regulation of 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase. Moreover, TCOH exhibited significant antiestrogenic activity with a RIC20 (20% relative inhibitory concentration) of 3.7 × 10-7 M. Molecular docking simulation supported this finding with lower docking scores for TCOH, indicating that hydrogen bonds may stabilize the interaction between TCOH and the estrogen receptor binding pocket. These findings suggest that TCE contamination poses an endocrine-disrupting threat, which has implications for both ecological and human health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Ecosystem
  • Humans
  • Molecular Docking Simulation
  • Trichloroacetic Acid
  • Trichloroethylene*


  • Trichloroethylene
  • Trichloroacetic Acid