US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Critical Reviews in Toxicology, 34(1):1–83, 2004


U.S. Government Work


The H4IIE cell bioassay has proven utility as a screening tool for planar halogenated hydrocarbons (PHHs) and structurally similar chemicals accumulated in organisms from the wild. This bioassay has additional applications in hazard assessment of PHH exposed populations. In this review, the toxicological principles, current protocols, performance criteria, and field applications for the assay are described. The H4IIE cell bioassay has several advantages over the analytical measurement of PHHs in environmental samples, but conclusions from studies can be strengthened when both bioassay and analytical chemistry data are presented together. Often, the bioassay results concur with biological effects in organisms and support direct measures of PHHs. For biomonitoring purposes and prioritization of PHH-contaminated environments, the H4IIE bioassay may be faster and less expensive than analytical measurements. The H4IIE cell bioassay can be used in combination with other biomarkers such as in vivo measurements of CYP1A1 induction to help pinpoint the sources and identities of dioxin-like chemicals. The number of studies that measure H4IIE-derived TCDD-EQs continues to increase, resulting in subtle improvements over time. Further experiments are required to determine if TCDD-EQs derived from mammalian cells are adequate predictors of toxicity to non-mammalian species. The H4IIE cell bioassay has been used in over 300 published studies, and its combination of speed, simplicity, and ability to integrate the effects of complex contaminant mixtures makes it a valuable addition to hazard assessment and biomonitoring studies.