The preterm birth (PTB) rate in Harris County, Texas, exceeds the U.S. rate (11.4% vs.9.6%), and there are 15 active Superfund sites in Harris County. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are contaminants of concern (COC) at Superfund sites across the nation. In this investigation, we tested the hypothesis that higher levels of exposure to PAHs and PAH-DNA adducts in placenta of women living near Superfund sites contribute to the increased rate of PTBs. Levels of benzo[a]pyene (BP), benzo[b]fluorene (BbF) and dibenz[a,h]anthracene (DBA), were higher in placentae from preterm deliveries compared with term deliveries in women living near Superfund sites, whereas this was not the case for women living in non-Superfund site areas. Among the PAHs, DBA levels were significantly higher than BP or BbF, and DBA levels were inversely correlated with gestational age at delivery and birth weight. Bulky PAH-DNA adducts are more prevalent in placental tissue from individuals residing near Superfund sites. Expression of Ah receptor (AHR) and NF-E2-related factor 2 (NRF2) was decreased in preterm deliveries in subjects residing near Superfund sites. Unbiased metabolomics revealed alterations in pathways involved in pentose phosphate, inositol phosphate and starch and sucrose metabolism in preterm subjects in Superfund site areas. In summary, this is the first report showing an association between PAH levels, DNA adducts, and modulation of endogenous metabolic pathways with PTBs in subjects residing near Superfund sites, and further studies could lead to novel strategies in the understanding of the mechanisms by which PAHs contribute to PTBs in women.
Keywords: DNA adducts; Human placenta; Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; Preterm birth; Superfund sites; Unbiased metabolomics.
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