Firemaster® 550 (FM550) is an additive flame retardant formulation of brominated and aryl phosphate ester (APE) components introduced as a major replacement product for the commercial polybrominated diphenyl ether mixture (known as PentaBDE) used primarily in polyurethane foam. However, little is known about the potential effects of FM550-based ingredients during early vertebrate development. Therefore, we first screened the developmental toxicity of each FM550 component using zebrafish as an animal model. Based on these initial screening assays, we found that exposure to the brominated components as high as 10 μM resulted in no significant effects on embryonic survival or development, while exposure to triphenyl phosphate (TPP) or mono-substituted isopropylated triaryl phosphate (Mono-ITP) – two APEs comprising almost 50% of FM550 – resulted in targeted effects on cardiac looping and function during embryogenesis. As these cardiac abnormalities resembled aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) agonist-induced phenotypes, we then exposed developing embryos to TPP or Mono-ITP in the presence or absence of an AHR antagonist (CH223191) or AHR2-specific morpholino. Based on these studies, we found that CH223191 blocked heart malformations following exposure to Mono-ITP but not TPP, while AHR2 knockdown failed to block the cardiotoxic effects of both components. Finally, using a cell-based human AHR reporter assay, we found that Mono-ITP (but not TPP) exposure resulted in a significant increase in human AHR-driven luciferase activity at similar nominal concentrations as a potent reference AHR agonist (β-Naphthoflavone). Overall, our findings suggest that two major APE components of FM550 induce severe cardiac abnormalities during early vertebrate development.

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Date of publication: 1 February 2013; Toxicological Sciences

Author information: Sean P. McGee (1); Alex Konstantinov (2); Heather M. Stapleton (3); & David C. Volz (1)

(1) Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA
(2) Wellington Laboratories, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
(3) Division of Environmental Sciences and Policy, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA

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