Interference of pollutants with PPARs: endocrine disruption meets metabolism

Int J Obes (Lond). 2008 Dec;32 Suppl 6:S53-61. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2008.207.


The concept of endocrine disruption emerged over a decade ago with the observation that several natural or industrial compounds can interfere with estrogen and androgen signaling, and thereby affect both male and female reproductive functions. Since then, many endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) have been identified and the concept has been broadened to receptors regulating other aspects of endocrine pathways. In that context, interference of EDCs with receptors regulating metabolism has been proposed as a factor that could contribute to metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes. We review recent studies showing that several pollutants, including phthalates and organotins, interfere with PPAR (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors) nuclear receptors and may thereby affect metabolic homeostasis. Particular emphasis is given on the mechanisms of action of these compounds. However, unlike what has been suspected, we provide evidence from mouse models suggesting that in utero exposure to the phthalate ester di-ethyl-hexyl-phthalate most likely does not predispose to obesity. Collectively, these studies define a subclass of EDCs that perturb metabolic signaling and that we propose to define as metabolic disruptors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diethylhexyl Phthalate / pharmacology*
  • Diethylhexyl Phthalate / toxicity*
  • Endocrine Disruptors / toxicity*
  • Endocrine System / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Models, Animal
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptors / drug effects*
  • Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptors / metabolism
  • Plasticizers / metabolism
  • Plasticizers / toxicity*
  • Pregnancy


  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptors
  • Plasticizers
  • Diethylhexyl Phthalate