Dysregulation of Intestinal Health by Environmental Pollutants: Involvement of the Estrogen Receptor and Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor

Environ Sci Technol. 2018 Feb 20;52(4):2323-2330. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.7b06322. Epub 2018 Jan 30.


To determine how environmental pollutants induce dysbiosis of the gut microbiota, we exposed adult zebrafish to model pollutants with varied modes of action (atrazine, estradiol, polychlorinated biphenyl [PCB]126, and PCB153) for 7 days. Subsequently, metagenomic sequencing of the intestines was performed to compare the gut microbiomes among the groups. We observed clear compound- and sex-specific responses to xenobiotic stress. Principal component analysis revealed involvement of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) and, to a lesser extent, the estrogen receptor (ER) in the dysregulation of the intestinal microbiota. The model pollutants differentially impaired intestinal and hepatic physiological activities, as indicated by assessments of gut motility, epithelial permeability, inflammation, and oxidative stress. Correlation analysis showed that abnormal Aeromonas reproduction, especially in the PCB126 groups, was significantly positively associated with oxidative damage. Aeromonas closely interacted with Mannheimia and Blastococcus to regulate intestinal permeability. In summary, we demonstrated that ER and AhR signaling regulated the dynamics of the gut microbiota. Our findings provide new mechanistic insight into the complex interactions between the host metabolism and gut microbiota, which may contribute to the grouped assessment of environmental pollutants in future.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Environmental Pollutants*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Intestines
  • Male
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls*
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon
  • Receptors, Estrogen


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls