Being a typical micropollutant, tris-(2-chloroethyl)-phosphate (TCEP) is often found in aquatic environments. However, the potential effects of TCEP at environmental concentrations on apoptotic mechanisms are mostly unknown. Thus, the purpose of this study is to investigate the apoptotic regulatory protein expression of TCEP at environmental concentration in primary cultured renal proximal tubule cells (PTCs). The results show that TCEP at 0.01 and 1 mg L−1 significantly increased the phosphorylation of c-Jun-NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) (135.5 and 138.0% of the control, respectively), and significantly decreased the expression of Bcl-2 and cIAP-2 at all tested concentrations, except for a slight decrease of Bcl-2 at 0.01 mg L−1. In addition, TCEP significantly increased the expression of caspase-3 at all three concentrations (132.6, 172.6 and 167.9% of the control, respectively) and caspase-9 at 1 and 10 mg L−1 (128.3 and 144.5% of the control, respectively). Furthermore, TCEP increased the apoptotic cell population in a flow cytometry analysis. In conclusion, environmental TCEP might have a dose-dependent proapoptotic effect with a decrease of DNA synthesis and cell number in primary cultured renal PTCs.

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