Addition of Phenylmethylsulfonyl Fluoride Increases the Working Lifetime of the Trout Liver S9 Substrate Depletion Assay, Resulting in Improved Detection of Low Intrinsic Clearance Rates

Environ Toxicol Chem. 2021 Jan;40(1):148-161. doi: 10.1002/etc.4901. Epub 2020 Nov 23.


The activity of a trout liver S9 substrate depletion assay has been shown to decline over time, presumably due to proteolytic degradation of biotransformation enzymes. To address this problem, assay performance was evaluated following the addition of phenylmethylsulfonyl fluoride (PMSF) or a general-purpose protease inhibitor cocktail to liver homogenization buffers and/or S9 reaction mixtures. Addition of PMSF to liver homogenization buffers and/or S9 reaction mixtures had little or no effect on clearance of phenanthrene, a model cytochrome P450 substrate, in short-term (25 or 30 min) depletion experiments but resulted in significant improvements in retention of this initial activity over time. The protease inhibitor cocktail strongly inhibited initial activity when added to homogenization buffers or reaction mixtures. Taking into consideration potential effects on liver carboxylesterases, the treatment approach determined to be optimal was addition of 10 µM PMSF to the S9 reaction mixture. Addition of 10 µM PMSF to the mixture resulted in significantly higher rates of phenanthrene clearance in 2-h incubations relative to those obtained in the absence of PMSF and a 6-fold increase in the working lifetime of the preparation. The results of a statistical power analysis suggest that by increasing the working lifetime of the assay, addition of PMSF to the reaction mixture could result in substantially improved detection of low in vitro clearance rates when compared to current practice. These findings demonstrate the value of adding PMSF to the trout S9 preparation and may have broad implications for use of this assay to support chemical bioaccumulation assessments for fish. Environ Toxicol Chem 2021;40:148-161. © 2020 SETAC. This article has been contributed to by US Government employees and their work is in the public domain in the USA.

Keywords: Bioaccumulation assessment; In vitro-in vivo extrapolation; Liver S9; Phenylmethylsulfonyl fluoride; Protease inhibitor; Rainbow trout.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biotransformation
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Metabolic Clearance Rate
  • Oncorhynchus mykiss*
  • Phenylmethylsulfonyl Fluoride / metabolism


  • Phenylmethylsulfonyl Fluoride