Haloacetic Acid Water Disinfection Byproducts Affect Pyruvate Dehydrogenase Activity and Disrupt Cellular Metabolism

Azra Dad, Clara H. Jeong, Elizabeth D. Wagner, Michael J. Plewa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The disinfection of drinking water has been a major public health achievement. However, haloacetic acids (HAAs), generated as byproducts of water disinfection, are cytotoxic, genotoxic, mutagenic, carcinogenic, and teratogenic. Previous studies of monoHAA-induced genotoxicity and cell stress demonstrated that the toxicity was due to inhibition of glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH), leading to disruption of cellular metabolism and energy homeostasis. DiHAAs and triHAAs are also produced during water disinfection, and whether they share mechanisms of action with monoHAAs is unknown. In this study, we evaluated the effects of mono-, di-, and tri-HAAs on cellular GAPDH enzyme kinetics, cellular ATP levels, and pyruvate dehydrogenase complex (PDC) activity. Here, treatments conducted in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells revealed differences among mono-, di-, and triHAAs in their molecular targets. The monoHAAs, iodoacetic acid and bromoacetic acid, were the strongest inhibitors of GAPDH and greatly reduced cellular ATP levels. Chloroacetic acid, diHAAs, and triHAAs were weaker inhibitors of GAPDH and some increased the levels of cellular ATP. HAAs also affected PDC activity, with most HAAs activating PDC. The primary finding of this work is that mono- versus multi-HAAs address different molecular targets, and the results are generally consistent with a model in which monoHAAs activate the PDC through GAPDH inhibition-mediated disruption in cellular metabolites, including altering ATP-to-ADP and NADH-to-NAD ratios. The monoHAA-mediated reduction in cellular metabolites results in accelerated PDC activity by way of metabolite-ratio-dependent PDC regulation. DiHAAs and triHAAs are weaker inhibitors of GAPDH, but many also increase cellular ATP levels, and we suggest that they increase PDC activity by inhibiting pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1525-1532
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 6 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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