Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a class of organic compounds produced by a variety of petrogenic and pyrogenic sources. PAHs inherently occur in the environment in complex mixtures. The early life-stage zebrafish model is a valuable tool for high-throughput screening (HTS) for toxicity of complex chemical mixtures due to its rapid development, high fecundity, and superb sensitivity to chemical insult. Zebrafish are amenable to exposure to surrogate mixtures as well as extracts of environmental samples and effect-directed analysis. In addition to its utility to HTS, the zebrafish has proven an excellent model for assessing chemical modes of action and identifying molecular initiating and other key events in an Adverse Outcome Pathway framework. Traditional methods of assessing PAH mixture toxicity prioritize carcinogenic potential and lack consideration of non-carcinogenic modes of action, assuming a similar molecular initiating event for all PAHs. Recent work in zebrafish has made it clear that while PAHs belong to the same chemical class, their modes of action can be divergent. Future research should use zebrafish to better classify PAHs by their bioactivity and modes of action to better understand mixture hazards.
Keywords: effect-directed analysis; mechanisms; mixtures; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; zebrafish.