Prenatal and postnatal impact of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) on rat development: a cross-foster study on chemical burden and thyroid hormone system

Environ Sci Technol. 2009 Nov 1;43(21):8416-22. doi: 10.1021/es901602d.


Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), an environmentally persistent organic pollutant, has been reported to be transferred to the developing organisms via both placenta and breast milk. A cross-foster model was used to determine whether prenatal or postnatal exposure to PFOS alone can disturb the TH homeostasis in rat pups, and if so, which kind of exposure is a major cause of TH level alteration. Pregnant rats were fed standard laboratory rodent diet containing 0 (control) or 3.2 mg PFOS/kg throughout gestation and lactation period. On the day of birth, litters born to treated and control dams were cross-fostered, resulting in the following groups: unexposed control (CC), pups exposed only prenatally (TC), only postnatally (CT) or both prenatally and postnatally (TT). Serum and liver PFOS concentrations, serum total thyroxine (T4), total triiodothyronine (T3), reverse T3 (rT3) levels, and hepatic expression of genes involved in TH transport, metabolism, and receptors were evaluated in pups at the age of postnatal days (PNDs) 0, 7, 14, 21, or 35. PFOS body burden level in pups in group CT increased, while those in group TC dropped as they aged. Neither total T3 nor rT3 in pups was affected by PFOS exposure. Gestational exposure to PFOS alone (TC) significantly (p < 0.05) decreased T4 level in pups on PNDs 21 and 35, 20.3 and 19.4% lower than the control on the same PND, respectively. Postnatal exposure to PFOS alone (CT) also induced T4 depression on PNDs 21 and 35, 28.6 and 35.9% lower than controls, respectively. No significant difference in T4 level (p > 0.05) was observed between TC and CT on these two time points. None of the selected TH related transcripts was affected by PFOS in pups on PND 0. Only transcript level of transthyretin, TH binding protein, in group TT significantly increased to 150% of the control on PND 21. The results showed that prenatal PFOS exposure and postnatal PFOS exposure induced hypothyroxinemia in rat pups to a similar extent, which suggested that in utero PFOS exposure and postnatal PFOS accumulation, especially though maternal milk, are matters of great concern.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alkanesulfonic Acids / blood
  • Alkanesulfonic Acids / chemistry*
  • Alkanesulfonic Acids / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Embryonic Development / drug effects*
  • Embryonic Development / genetics
  • Female
  • Fluorocarbons / blood
  • Fluorocarbons / chemistry*
  • Fluorocarbons / toxicity*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / drug effects
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver / pathology
  • Organ Size / drug effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / blood
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / pathology*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Thyroid Hormones / blood
  • Thyroid Hormones / genetics
  • Thyroid Hormones / metabolism*


  • Alkanesulfonic Acids
  • Fluorocarbons
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Thyroid Hormones
  • perfluorooctane sulfonic acid