Thyroid hormone status and pituitary function in adult rats given oral doses of perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS)

Shu-Ching Chang, Julie R Thibodeaux, Mary L Eastvold, David J Ehresman, James A Bjork, John W Froehlich, Christopher Lau, Ravinder J Singh, Kendall B Wallace, John L Butenhoff
Toxicology 2008 January 20, 243 (3): 330-9

INTRODUCTION: Perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) is widely distributed and persistent in humans and wildlife. Prior toxicological studies have reported decreased total and free thyroid hormones in serum without a major compensatory rise in thyrotropin (TSH) or altered thyroid gland histology. Although these animals (rats, mice and monkeys) might have maintained an euthyroid state, the basis for hypothyroxinemia remained unclear. We undertook this study to investigate the causes for the PFOS-induced reduction of serum total thyroxine (TT4) in rats.

HYPOTHESES: We hypothesized that exposure to PFOS may increase free thyroxine (FT4) in the rat serum due to the ability of PFOS to compete with thyroxine for binding proteins. The increase in FT4 would increase the availability of the thyroid hormone to peripheral tissues for utilization, metabolic conversation, and excretion. We also hypothesized that PFOS does not directly interfere with the regulatory functions of the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis in rats.

EXPERIMENTS: Three experimental designs were employed to test these hypotheses. (1) Female Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats were given a single oral dose of 15 mg potassium PFOS/kg body weight. At intervals of 2, 6, and 24h thereafter, measurements were made for serum FT4, TT4, triiodothyronine (TT3), reverse triiodothyronine (rT3), thryrotropin (TSH), and PFOS concentrations, as well as liver PFOS concentrations, UDP-glucuronosyltransferase 1A (UGT1A) family mRNA transcripts, and malic enzyme (ME) mRNA transcripts and activity. (2) To provide evidence for increased uptake and metabolism of thyroxine (T4), 125 I-T4 was given to male and female SD rats by intravenous injection, followed in 2h by a single oral dose of 15 mg potassium PFOS/kg body weight. 125 I radioactivity was determined in urine and feces collected over a 24-h period and in serum and liver collected at 24h. (3) To assess the potentials effect of PFOS on the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis, over an 8-day period, groups of male SD rats were given PFOS (3mg/kg-d), propyl thiouracil (PTU, 10 microg/mL in water), or PTU and PFOS in combination, with controls receiving 0.5% Tween 20 vehicle. On days 1, 3, 7, and 8, TT4, TT3, and TSH were monitored. On day 8, pituitaries were removed and placed in static culture for assessment of thyrotropin releasing hormone (TRH)-mediated release of TSH.

RESULTS: (1) PFOS transiently increased FT4 and decreased TSH within 6h, with values returning to control levels by 24h. TT4 was decreased by 55% over a 24-h period. TT3 and rT3 were decreased at 24h to a lesser extent than TT4. ME mRNA transcripts were increased at 2h and activity was increased at 24h. UGT1A mRNA transcripts were increased at 2 and 6h. (2) 125 I decreased in serum and liver relative to controls and consistent with a reduction in serum TT4. Concomitantly, 125 I activity was increased in urine and feces collected from PFOS-treated rats. (3) During the 8 days of dosing with PFOS, TSH was not elevated in male rats, while TT4 and TT3 were decreased. Pituitary response to TRH-mediated TSH release was not diminished after 8-daily oral doses of PFOS.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that oral dosing in rats with PFOS results in transiently increased tissue availability of the thyroid hormones and turnover of T4 with a resulting reduction in serum TT4. PFOS does not induce a classical hypothyroid state under dosing conditions employed nor does it alter HPT activities.

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