Acceleration of autoimmunity by organochlorine pesticides in (NZB x NZW)F1 mice

Environ Health Perspect. 2005 Mar;113(3):323-8. doi: 10.1289/ehp.7347.


Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disorder that affects women more frequently than men. In the (NZB times NZW)F1 mouse, a murine SLE model, the presence or absence of estrogen markedly influences the rate of progression of disease. Three organochlorine pesticides with estrogenic effects were administered chronically to ovariectomized female (NZB times NZW)F1 mice, and we measured the time to development of renal disease, the principal clinical manifestation of lupus in this model. Treatment with chlordecone, methoxychlor, or o,p -dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (o,p -DDT) significantly decreased the time to onset of renal impairment, as did treatment with 17ss-estradiol used as a positive control. In an expanded study of chlordecone, we found a dose-related early appearance of elevated anti-double-strand DNA autoantibody titers that corresponded with subsequent development of glomerulonephritis. Immunohistofluorescence confirmed early deposition of immune complexes in kidneys of mice treated with chlordecone. These observations are consistent with an effect of these organochlorine pesticides to accelerate the natural course of SLE in the (NZB times NZW)F1 mouse. Although we originally hypothesized that the effect on progression of autoimmunity was due to estrogenic properties of the pesticides, autoimmune effects and estrogenicity, assessed through measurement of uterine hypertrophy, were not well correlated. This may indicate that uterine hypertrophy is a poor indicator of comparative estrogenic effects of organochlorine pesticides on the immune system, or that the pesticides are influencing autoimmunity through a mode of action unrelated to their estrogenicity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmunity / drug effects*
  • Chlordecone / toxicity*
  • DDT / toxicity*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Estrogens, Non-Steroidal / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Insecticides / toxicity*
  • Kidney Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Kidney Diseases / veterinary
  • Lupus Vulgaris / chemically induced
  • Lupus Vulgaris / veterinary
  • Methoxychlor / toxicity*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NZB
  • Ovariectomy / veterinary
  • Receptors, Estrogen / drug effects*
  • Receptors, Estrogen / physiology*


  • Estrogens, Non-Steroidal
  • Insecticides
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • DDT
  • o,p'-DDT
  • Chlordecone
  • Methoxychlor