Both increased and decreased gestation lengths have been reported following exposures to polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) mixtures and congeners. Because oscillatory uterine contractions are essential for parturition, we hypothesized that the disparate findings on gestation length may be the result of distinct PCB congener-specific actions on oscillatory uterine contractions. This study examined the acute effects of PCB congeners on isometric contractions of isolated pregnant uteri and the structure-activity relationship for individual congeners. After cumulative exposure to individual PCB congeners (0.5 μM to 150 μM), oscillatory contractions were: 1) not altered by 2,4,5,2′,4′,5′-hexachlorobiphenyl, 3,4,5,3′,4′-pentachlorobiphenyl, or 3,4,3′,4′-tetrachlorobiphenyl; 2) significantly inhibited by 4-hydroxy-2′,4′,6′-trichlorobiphenyl; and 3) markedly increased by 2,4,6-trichlorobiphenyl and 2,4,2′,4′-tetrachlorobiphenyl, when compared to solvent controls. The uteri were more sensitive to PCB congeners with ortho-substituted light chlorination than those highly chlorinated, or those interacting with the Ah-receptor.
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