Coplanar polychlorinated biphenyls impair glucose homeostasis in lean C57BL/6 mice and mitigate beneficial effects of weight loss on glucose homeostasis in obese mice

Environ Health Perspect. 2013 Jan;121(1):105-10. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1205421. Epub 2012 Oct 24.


Background: Previous studies demonstrated that coplanar polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) promote proinflammatory gene expression in adipocytes. PCBs are highly lipophilic and accumulate in adipose tissue, a site of insulin resistance in persons with type 2 diabetes.

Objectives: We investigated the in vitro and in vivo effects of coplanar PCBs on adipose expression of tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α) and on glucose and insulin homeostasis in lean and obese mice.

Methods: We quantified glucose and insulin tolerance, as well as TNF-α levels, in liver, muscle, and adipose tissue of male C57BL/6 mice administered vehicle, PCB-77, or PCB-126 and fed a low fat (LF) diet. Another group of mice administered vehicle or PCB-77 were fed a high fat (HF) diet for 12 weeks; the diet was then switched from HF to LF for 4 weeks to induce weight loss. We quantified glucose and insulin tolerance and adipose TNF-α expression in these mice. In addition, we used in vitro and in vivo studies to quantify aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR)-dependent effects of PCB-77 on parameters of glucose homeostasis.

Results: Treatment with coplanar PCBs resulted in sustained impairment of glucose and insulin tolerance in mice fed the LF diet. In PCB-77-treated mice, TNF-α expression was increased in adipose tissue but not in liver or muscle. PCB-77 levels were strikingly higher in adipose tissue than in liver or serum. Antagonism of AhR abolished both in vitro and in vivo effects of PCB-77. In obese mice, PCB-77 had no effect on glucose homeostasis, but glucose homeostasis was impaired after weight loss.

Conclusions: Coplanar PCBs impaired glucose homeostasis in lean mice and in obese mice following weight loss. Adipose-specific elevations in TNF-α expression by PCBs may contribute to impaired glucose homeostasis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / drug effects
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Homeostasis / drug effects*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Obese
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / toxicity*
  • Weight Loss / physiology*


  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls
  • Glucose