Evaluation of disinfection byproducts for their ability to affect mitochondrial function

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of environmental sciences (China)






Disinfection byproducts; Dose-response curve; Emerging contaminants; In vitro bioassay; Mitochondrial membrane potential; Toxicity


In the race to deliver clean water to communities through potable water reuse, disinfection and water quality assessment are and will continue to be fundamental factors. There are over 700 disinfection byproducts (DBPs) in water; evaluating each compound is practically impossible and very time consuming. A bioanalytical approach could be an answer to this challenge. In this work, the response of four major classes of DBPs toward mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨm) and cytoplasmic adenosine triphosphate (C-ATP) was investigated with human carcinoma (HepG2) cells. Within 90 min of cell exposure, only the haloacetic acid (HAA) mixture caused a cytotoxic response as measured by C-ATP. All four groups (haloacetonitriles (HANs), trihalomethanes (THMs), nitrosamines (NOAs), and HAAs) responded well to ΔΨm, R > 0.70. Based on the half-maximum concentration that evoked a 50% response in ΔΨm, the response gradient was HANs >> HAAs ∼ THM > NOAs. The inhibition of the ΔΨm by HANs is driven by dibromoacetonitrile (DBAN), while dichloroacetonitrile (DCAN) did not cause a significant change in the ΔΨm at less than 2000 µM. A mixture of HANs exhibited an antagonistic behavior on the ΔΨm compared to individual compounds. If water samples are concentrated to increase HAN concentrations, especially DBAN, then ΔΨm could be used as a biomonitoring tool for DBP toxicity.


Environmental and Occupational Health