Integrated transcriptomics and metabolomics reveal signatures of lipid metabolism dysregulation in HepaRG liver cells exposed to PCB 126

Robin Mesnage, Martina Biserni, Sucharitha Balu, Clément Frainay, Nathalie Poupin, Fabien Jourdan, Eva Wozniak, Theodoros Xenakis, Charles A. Mein, Michael N. Antoniou*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Chemical pollutant exposure is a risk factor contributing to the growing epidemic of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) affecting human populations that consume a western diet. Although it is recognized that intoxication by chemical pollutants can lead to NAFLD, there is limited information available regarding the mechanism by which typical environmental levels of exposure can contribute to the onset of this disease. Here, we describe the alterations in gene expression profiles and metabolite levels in the human HepaRG liver cell line, a validated model for cellular steatosis, exposed to the polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) 126, one of the most potent chemical pollutants that can induce NAFLD. Sparse partial least squares classification of the molecular profiles revealed that exposure to PCB 126 provoked a decrease in polyunsaturated fatty acids as well as an increase in sphingolipid levels, concomitant with a decrease in the activity of genes involved in lipid metabolism. This was associated with an increased oxidative stress reflected by marked disturbances in taurine metabolism. A gene ontology analysis showed hallmarks of an activation of the AhR receptor by dioxin-like compounds. These changes in metabolome and transcriptome profiles were observed even at the lowest concentration (100 pM) of PCB 126 tested. A decrease in docosatrienoate levels was the most sensitive biomarker. Overall, our integrated multi-omics analysis provides mechanistic insight into how this class of chemical pollutant can cause NAFLD. Our study lays the foundation for the development of molecular signatures of toxic effects of chemicals causing fatty liver diseases to move away from a chemical risk assessment based on in vivo animal experiments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2533-2547
Number of pages15
JournalArchives of Toxicology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • HepaRG
  • Liver
  • Metabolome
  • PCB
  • Transcriptome


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