Perfluoralkylated substances (PFAS) are classified as persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic substances and are widespread environmental contaminants. Humans are exposed through food, drinking water and air. We have previously reported that bisphenol A accelerates spontaneous diabetes development in non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice and observed in the present study that perfluoroundecanoic acid, PFUnDA, increased insulitis development, a prerequisite for diabetes development in NOD mice. We exposed NOD mice to PFUnDA in drinking water (3, 30 and 300 μg/l) at mating, during gestation and lactation and until 30 weeks of age. After 300 μg/l PFUnDA exposure, we report (i) increased pancreatic insulitis, (ii) increased number of apoptotic cells in pancreatic islets prior to insulitis and (iii) decreased phagocytosis in peritoneal macrophages. There was also a trend of decreased number of tissue resident macrophages in pancreatic islets prior to insulitis after exposure to 300 μg/l, and altered cytokine secretion in activated splenocytes after exposure to 3 μg/l PFUnDA. Although insulitis is a prerequisite for autoimmune diabetes, the accelerated insulitis was not associated with accelerated diabetes development. Instead, the incidence of diabetes tended to be reduced in the animals exposed to 3 and 30 μg/l PFUnDA, suggesting a non-monotonic dose response. The effects of PFUnDA exposure on increased apoptosis in pancreas and reduced macrophage function as well as accelerated insulitis development in NOD mice, may also be relevant for human insulitis. Further observational autoimmune diabetes clinical cohort studies and animal experiments for PFUnDA as well as other PFASs are therefore encouraged.
Keywords: Diabetes; Insulitis; NOD mice; PFUnDA; Perfluoralkylated substances; T1DM.