Effects of Perinatal Exposure to Dibutyltin Chloride on Fat and Glucose Metabolism in Mice, and Molecular Mechanisms, in Vitro

Environ Health Perspect. 2018 May 21;126(5):057006. doi: 10.1289/EHP3030. eCollection 2018 May.


Background: The organotin dibutyltin (DBT) is used in the manufacture of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics, in construction materials, and in medical devices. Previous animal studies showed detrimental effects of DBT during in utero development at relatively high doses, but little was known about the effects of DBT exposure at environmentally relevant doses on endpoints such as obesity and metabolic disease.

Objectives: We tested the potential obesogenic effects of DBT using in vitro and in vivo models.

Methods: We evaluated the effects of DBT on nuclear receptor activation and adipogenic potential using human and mouse multipotent mesenchymal stromal stem cells (MSCs). We also evaluated the effects of perinatal exposure to environmentally relevant doses of DBT in C57BL/6J mice.

Results: DBT activated human and mouse PPARγ and RXRα in transient transfection assays, increased expression of adipogenic genes, promoted adipogenic differentiation and increased lipid accumulation in mouse and human MSCs, in vitro. DBT-induced adipogenic differentiation was abolished by the PPARγ antagonist T0070907, indicating that DBT was acting primarily through PPARγ. Perinatal exposure to low doses of DBT led to increased fat storage, decreased glucose tolerance, and increased circulating leptin levels in male, but not female, mice.

Conclusions: DBT acted as an obesogen by inducing lipid accumulation in human and mouse MSCs through a PPARγ-dependent pathway. In vivo exposure to biologically relevant doses of DBT during perinatal development led to increased fat storage, elevated leptin levels in plasma, and glucose intolerance in mice. Based on these findings, we posit that monitoring of DBT levels in human samples may aid in understanding and potentially preventing the rising rates of metabolic disorders in human populations. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP3030.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adipogenesis / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism / drug effects
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Organotin Compounds / pharmacology*
  • PPAR gamma / metabolism
  • Retinoid X Receptors / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • Organotin Compounds
  • PPAR gamma
  • Retinoid X Receptors
  • di-n-butyltin
  • Glucose