Prenatal exposure to the environmental obesogen tributyltin predisposes multipotent stem cells to become adipocytes

Mol Endocrinol. 2010 Mar;24(3):526-39. doi: 10.1210/me.2009-0261. Epub 2010 Feb 16.


The environmental obesogen hypothesis proposes that pre- and postnatal exposure to environmental chemicals contributes to adipogenesis and the development of obesity. Tributyltin (TBT) is an agonist of both retinoid X receptor (RXR) and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARgamma). Activation of these receptors can elevate adipose mass in adult mice exposed to the chemical in utero. Here we show that TBT sensitizes human and mouse multipotent stromal stem cells derived from white adipose tissue [adipose-derived stromal stem cells (ADSCs)] to undergo adipogenesis. In vitro exposure to TBT, or the PPARgamma activator rosiglitazone increases adipogenesis, cellular lipid content, and expression of adipogenic genes. The adipogenic effects of TBT and rosiglitazone were blocked by the addition of PPARgamma antagonists, suggesting that activation of PPARgamma mediates the effect of both compounds on adipogenesis. ADSCs from mice exposed to TBT in utero showed increased adipogenic capacity and reduced osteogenic capacity with enhanced lipid accumulation in response to adipogenic induction. ADSCs retrieved from animals exposed to TBT in utero showed increased expression of PPARgamma target genes such as the early adipogenic differentiation gene marker fatty acid-binding protein 4 and hypomethylation of the promoter/enhancer region of the fatty acid-binding protein 4 locus. Hence, TBT alters the stem cell compartment by sensitizing multipotent stromal stem cells to differentiate into adipocytes, an effect that could likely increase adipose mass over time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / cytology*
  • Adipocytes / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects*
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Multipotent Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Multipotent Stem Cells / drug effects*
  • Multipotent Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Pregnancy
  • Trialkyltin Compounds / toxicity*


  • Trialkyltin Compounds
  • tributyltin