Effects of Periconception Cadmium and Mercury Co-Administration to Mice on Indices of Chronic Diseases in Male Offspring at Maturity

Environ Health Perspect. 2017 Apr;125(4):643-650. doi: 10.1289/EHP481. Epub 2016 Nov 4.


Background: Long-term exposure to the heavy metals cadmium (Cd) and mercury (Hg) is known to increase the risk of chronic diseases. However, to our knowledge, exposure to Cd and Hg beginning at the periconception period has not been studied to date.

Objective: We examined the effect of Cd and Hg that were co-administered during early development on indices of chronic diseases in adult male mice.

Methods: Adult female CD1 mice were subcutaneously administered a combination of cadmium chloride (CdCl2) and methylmercury (II) chloride (CH3HgCl) (0, 0.125, 0.5, or 2.0 mg/kg body weight each) 4 days before and 4 days after conception (8 days total). Indices of anxiety-like behavior, glucose homeostasis, endocrine and molecular markers of insulin resistance, and organ weights were examined in adult male offspring.

Results: Increased anxiety-like behavior, impaired glucose homeostasis, and higher body weight and abdominal adipose tissue weight were observed in male offspring of treated females compared with controls. Significantly increased serum leptin and insulin concentrations and impaired insulin tolerance in the male offspring of dams treated with 2.0 mg/kg body weight of Cd and Hg suggested insulin resistance. Altered mRNA abundance for genes associated with glucose and lipid homeostasis (GLUT4, IRS1, FASN, ACACA, FATP2, CD36, and G6PC) in liver and abdominal adipose tissues as well as increased IRS1 phosphorylation in liver (Ser 307) provided further evidence of insulin resistance.

Conclusions: Results suggest that the co-administration of Cd and Hg to female mice during the early development of their offspring (the periconception period) was associated with anxiety-like behavior, altered glucose metabolism, and insulin resistance in male offspring at adulthood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cadmium / toxicity*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Hazardous Substances / toxicity*
  • Homeostasis
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Male
  • Mercury / toxicity*
  • Mice
  • Overweight
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / blood
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / chemically induced*
  • Toxicity Tests


  • Hazardous Substances
  • Cadmium
  • Mercury
  • Glucose