The effect of alkyl substitution on the oxidative metabolism and mutagenicity of phenanthrene

Danlei Wang*, Viktoria Schramm, Jeroen Pool, Eleni Pardali, Annemarijn Brandenburg, Ivonne M.C.M. Rietjens, Peter J. Boogaard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Alkyl-substituted PAHs may be present in certain petroleum-derived products and in the environment and may eventually end up in consumer products, such as foodstuffs, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Safety concerns over possible exposure to alkylated PAHs have emerged. Bioactivation is a prerequisite for the mutagenicity and carcinogenicity of PAHs and has been extensively studied for non-substituted PAHs, while data on the bioactivation of alkyl-substituted PAHs are scarce. The present study investigated the effect of alkyl substitution on the CYP 450-mediated metabolism of phenanthrene and eight of its alkylated congeners by quantifying metabolite formation in rat and human liver microsomal incubations. Furthermore, the mutagenicity of four selected methylated phenanthrenes was compared to that of phenanthrene using the Ames test. The obtained results support the hypothesis that alkyl substitution shifts the oxidative metabolism from the aromatic ring to the alkyl side chain. Increasing the length of the alkyl chain reduced overall metabolism with metabolic conversion for 1-n-dodecyl-phenanthrene (C12) being negligible. 1- and 9-methyl-phenanthrene, in which the methyl group generates an additional bay region-like structural motif, showed mutagenicity toward Salmonella typhimurium TA98 and TA 100, whereas phenanthrene and also 2- and 3-methyl-phenanthrene, without such an additional bay region-like structural motif, tested negative. It is concluded that the position of the alkylation affects the metabolism and resulting mutagenicity of phenanthrene with the mutagenicity increasing in cases where the alkyl substituent creates an additional bay region-like structural motif, in spite of the extra possibilities for side chain oxidation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1109-1131
JournalArchives of Toxicology
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • Alkylated phenanthrene
  • Human
  • Michaelis–Menten kinetics
  • Microsomes
  • Mutagenicity
  • Rat


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