Adipogenic Activity of Oligomeric Hexafluoropropylene Oxide (Perfluorooctanoic Acid Alternative) through Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor γ Pathway

Environ Sci Technol. 2019 Mar 19;53(6):3287-3295. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.8b06978. Epub 2019 Mar 1.


Hexafluoropropylene oxide trimer acid (HFPO-TA) and hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid (HFPO-DA) have been used as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) alternatives in the fluoropolymer industry for years. Their widespread environmental distribution, high bioaccumulation capability, and human exposure have caused great concern. Nevertheless, their potential toxicity and health risk remain largely unknown. In the present study, we compared potential disruption effects of HFPO-TA, HFPO-DA, and PFOA on peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ) via the investigation of receptor binding, receptor activity, and cell adipogenesis effects. The receptor binding experiment showed HFPO-TA exhibited 4.8-7.5 folds higher binding affinity with PPARγ than PFOA, whereas HFPO-DA exhibited weaker binding affinity than PFOA. They also showed agonistic activity toward PPARγ signaling pathway in HEK 293 cells in the order of HFPO-TA > PFOA > HFPO-DA. Molecular docking simulation indicated HFPO-TA formed more hydrogen bonds than PFOA, whereas HFPO-DA formed fewer hydrogen bonds than PFOA. HFPO-TA promoted adipogenic differentiation and lipid accumulation in both mouse and human preadipocytes with potency higher than PFOA. Adipogenesis in human preadipocytes is a more sensitive end point than mouse preadipocytes. Collectively, HFPO-TA exerts higher binding affinity, agonistic activity, and adipogenesis activity than PFOA. The potential health risk of HFPO-TA should be of concern.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipogenesis*
  • Animals
  • Caprylates
  • Fluorocarbons
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Molecular Docking Simulation
  • Oxides
  • PPAR gamma*


  • Caprylates
  • Fluorocarbons
  • Oxides
  • PPAR gamma
  • perfluorooctanoic acid