Organophosphate Flame-Retardants Alter Adult Mouse Homeostasis and Gene Expression in a Sex-Dependent Manner Potentially Through Interactions With ERα

Toxicol Sci. 2018 Mar 1;162(1):212-224. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfx238.


Flame retardants (FRs) such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers and organophosphate FR (OPFR) persist in the environment and interact with multiple nuclear receptors involved in homeostasis, including estrogen receptors (ERs). However, little is known about the effects of FR, especially OPFR, on mammalian neuroendocrine functions. Therefore, we investigated if exposure to FR alters hypothalamic gene expression and whole-animal physiology in adult wild-type (WT) and ERα KO mice. Intact WT and KO males and ovariectomized WT and KO females were orally dosed daily with vehicle (oil), 17α-ethynylestradiol (2.5 μg/kg), 2,2', 4,4-tetrabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-47, 1 or 10 mg/kg), or an OPFR mixture {1 or 10 mg/kg of tris(1, 3-dichloro-2-propyl)phosphate, triphenyl phosphate, and tricresyl phosphate each} for 28 days. Body weight, food intake, body composition, glucose and insulin tolerance, plasma hormone levels, and hypothalamic and liver gene expression were measured. Expression of neuropeptides, receptors, and cation channels was differentially altered between WT males and females. OPFR suppressed body weight and energy intake in males. FR increased fasting glucose levels in males, and BDE-47 augmented glucose clearance in females. Liver gene expression indicated FXR activation by BDE-47 and PXR and CAR activation by OPFR. In males, OPFR increased ghrelin but decreased leptin and insulin independent of body weight. The loss of ERα reduced the effects of both FR on hypothalamic and liver gene expression and plasma hormone levels. The physiological implications are that males are more sensitive than ovariectomized females to OPFR exposure and that these effects are mediated, in part, by ERα.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Endocrine Disruptors / toxicity*
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha / genetics*
  • Female
  • Flame Retardants / toxicity*
  • Gene Expression / drug effects*
  • Homeostasis / drug effects
  • Hypothalamus / drug effects
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Organophosphorus Compounds / blood
  • Organophosphorus Compounds / toxicity*
  • Ovariectomy
  • Sex Characteristics*


  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha
  • Flame Retardants
  • Organophosphorus Compounds