Perfluoro-alkyl substances (PFAS), particularly perfluoro-octanoic acid (PFOA), are persisting environmental chemicals showing bioaccumulation in human tissues. Recently, exposure to PFAS has been associated with increased prevalence of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). However, a causal role of PFAS in atherosclerosis pathogenesis is under-investigated. Here, we investigated the effect of PFOA exposure on platelets' function, a key player in atherosclerosis process. PFOA accumulation in platelets was evaluated by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Changes in platelets' membrane fluidity and activation after dose-dependent exposure to PFOA were evaluated by merocyanine 540 (MC540) and anti P-Selectin immune staining at flow cytometry, respectively. Intracellular calcium trafficking was analyzed with Fluo4M probe, time-lapse live imaging. Platelets' aggregation state was also evaluated with Multiplate® aggregometry analyzer in 48 male subjects living in a specific area of the Veneto region with high PFAS environmental pollution, and compared with 30 low-exposure control subjects. Platelets' membrane was the major target of PFOA, whose dose-dependent accumulation was associated in turn with increased membrane fluidity, as expected by a computational model; increased activation at resting condition; and both calcium uptake and aggregation upon activation. Finally, exposed subjects had higher serum and platelets levels of PFOA, together with increased aggregation parameters at Multiplate®, compared with controls. These data help to explain the emerging association between PFAS exposure and CVD.
Keywords: cardiovascular diseases; liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, membrane fluidity, platelets’ aggregation; perfluoro–alkyl substances.