Phenotypic dichotomy following developmental exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in female CD-1 mice: Low doses induce elevated serum leptin and insulin, and overweight in mid-life

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2009 May 25;304(1-2):97-105. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2009.02.021. Epub 2009 Mar 9.


The synthetic surfactant, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is a proven developmental toxicant in mice, causing pregnancy loss, increased neonatal mortality, delayed eye opening, and abnormal mammary gland growth in animals exposed during fetal life. PFOA is found in the sera and tissues of wildlife and humans throughout the world, but is especially high in the sera of children compared to adults. These studies in CD-1 mice aim to determine the latent health effects of PFOA following: (1) an in utero exposure, (2) an in utero exposure followed by ovariectomy (ovx), or (3) exposure as an adult. Mice were exposed to 0, 0.01, 0.1, 0.3, 1, 3, or 5mg PFOA/kg BW for 17 days of pregnancy or as young adults. Body weight was reduced in the highest doses on postnatal day (PND) 1 and at weaning. However, the lowest exposures (0.01-0.3mg/kg) significantly increased body weight, and serum insulin and leptin (0.01-0.1mg/kg) in mid-life after developmental exposure. PFOA exposure combined with ovx caused no additional increase in mid-life body weight. At 18 months of age, the effects of in utero PFOA exposure on body weight were no longer detected. White adipose tissue and spleen weights were decreased at high doses of PFOA in intact developmentally exposed mice, and spleen weight was reduced in PFOA-exposed ovx mice. Brown adipose tissue weight was significantly increased in both ovx and intact mice at high PFOA doses. Liver weight was unaffected in late life by these exposure paradigms. Finally, there was no effect of adult exposure to PFOA on body weight. These studies demonstrate an important window of exposure for low-dose effects of PFOA on body weight gain, as well as leptin and insulin concentrations in mid-life, at a lowest observed effect level of 0.01mg PFOA/kg BW. The mode of action of these effects and its relevance to human health remain to be explored.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight / drug effects*
  • Caprylates / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Fluorocarbons / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood*
  • Leptin / blood*
  • Maternal Exposure*
  • Mice
  • Organ Size / drug effects
  • Ovariectomy
  • Overweight*
  • Phenotype
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Random Allocation


  • Caprylates
  • Fluorocarbons
  • Insulin
  • Leptin
  • perfluorooctanoic acid