Metabolic Disruption Early in Life is Associated With Latent Carcinogenic Activity of Dichloroacetic Acid in Mice

Toxicol Sci. 2017 Oct 1;159(2):354-365. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfx146.


Early-life environmental factors can influence later-life susceptibility to cancer. Recent evidence suggests that metabolic pathways may mediate this type of latency effect. Previously, we reported that short-term exposure to dichloroacetic acid (DCA) increased liver cancer in mice 84 weeks after exposure was stopped. Here, we evaluated time course dynamics for key events related to this effect. This study followed a stop-exposure design in which 28-day-old male B6C3F1 mice were given the following treatments in drinking water for up to 93 weeks: deionized water (dH2O, control); 3.5 g/l DCA continuously; or 3.5 g/l DCA for 4-52 weeks followed by dH2O. Effects were evaluated at eight interim time points. A short-term biomarker study was used to evaluate DCA effects at 6, 15, and 30 days. Liver tumor incidence was higher in all DCA treatment groups, including carcinomas in 82% of mice previously treated with DCA for only 4 weeks. Direct effects of DCA in the short-term study included decreased liver cell proliferation and marked mRNA changes related to mitochondrial dysfunction and altered cell metabolism. However, all observed short-term effects of DCA were ultimately reversible, and prior DCA treatment did not affect liver cell proliferation, apoptosis, necrosis, or DNA sequence variants with age. Key intermediate events resulting from transient DCA exposure do not fit classical cytotoxic, mitogenic, or genotoxic modes of action for carcinogenesis, suggesting a distinct mechanism associated with early-life metabolic disruption.

Keywords: carcinogenesis; dichloroacetic acid; early-life exposure; liver; metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinogens / toxicity*
  • Dichloroacetic Acid / toxicity*
  • Liver Neoplasms, Experimental / chemically induced*
  • Liver Neoplasms, Experimental / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Organ Size / drug effects


  • Carcinogens
  • Dichloroacetic Acid