A 28-day subacute oral toxicity study was performed in Wistar rats with a purified preparation of the commercial pentabromodiphenyl ether (pentaBDE), DE-71. The applied OECD407 protocol was enhanced for endocrine and immune parameters, and to enable benchmark dose analysis. A vehicle control group and 7 dose groups were included, which received 0.27, 0.82, 2.47, 7.4, 22.2, 66.7 or 200mg pentaBDE/kg bw/d (mkd). The liver appeared to be a key target organ, showing a marked increase of weight and centrilobular hepatocellular hypertrophy, probably due to the observed induction of P450 enzymes, notably CYP1A and CYP2B. A marked decrease of circulating total thyroxine (TT4) and an increase of plasma cholesterol were probably secondary to the liver effects. Furthermore, dose-dependently decreased weight of epididymis, seminal vesicles, and prostate, as well as sperm head deformities in males, and induction of CYP17 activity in adrenals in females were observed, all possibly related to anti-androgenic activity. Finally, we observed a substantial increase of large unstained cells in the blood and a decrease of apolar retinoids in the liver. All these effects had benchmark doses at the lower confidence bound (BMDL) in the low- or mid-dose range, but particular sensitive, potentially adverse effects were TT4 decrease (BMDLs 1.1 in males and 1.8 mkd in females), and decrease of hepatic apolar retinoids (BMDLs 0.5 mkd in males and 2.3 mkd in females). These results contribute to refinement of the hazard identification of pentaBDE and improved risk assessment of human exposure to this industrial chemical and environmental pollutant. (C) 2007 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.