The effects of a commercial polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) mixture (Aroclor 1248) and two individual PCB congeners were evaluated on rat renal proximal tubule culture cell viability and internucleosomal DNA fragmentation (DNA ladder) characteristic of apoptosis. Treatment with Aroclor 1248 caused the loss of cell viability and promoted apoptosis in a concentration- and time-dependent manner. The two PCB congeners assessed can also induce apoptosis. However, the extent of apoptosis generated was greater for the non-ortho-substituted planar congener (3,3′,4,4′-tetrachlorobiphenyl) than for the di-ortho-substituted nonplanar congener (2,2′,4,4′,5,5′-hexachlorobiphenyl). This correlated with the loss of cell viability since the planar compound is much more cytotoxic. The results suggest a different molecular mechanism in the induction of apoptosis by planar or nonplanar PCB congeners.

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