Metabolic Effects of a Chronic Dietary Exposure to a Low-Dose Pesticide Cocktail in Mice: Sexual Dimorphism and Role of the Constitutive Androstane Receptor

Environ Health Perspect. 2018 Jun 25;126(6):067007. doi: 10.1289/EHP2877. eCollection 2018 Jun.


Background: Epidemiological evidence suggests a link between pesticide exposure and the development of metabolic diseases. However, most experimental studies have evaluated the metabolic effects of pesticides using individual molecules, often at nonrelevant doses or in combination with other risk factors such as high-fat diets.

Objectives: We aimed to evaluate, in mice, the metabolic consequences of chronic dietary exposure to a pesticide mixture at nontoxic doses, relevant to consumers' risk assessment.

Methods: A mixture of six pesticides commonly used in France, i.e., boscalid, captan, chlorpyrifos, thiofanate, thiacloprid, and ziram, was incorporated in a standard chow at doses exposing mice to the tolerable daily intake (TDI) of each pesticide. Wild-type (WT) and constitutive androstane receptor-deficient (CAR-/-) male and female mice were exposed for 52 wk. We assessed metabolic parameters [body weight (BW), food and water consumption, glucose tolerance, urinary metabolome] throughout the experiment. At the end of the experiment, we evaluated liver metabolism (histology, transcriptomics, metabolomics, lipidomics) and pesticide detoxification using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS).

Results: Compared to those fed control chow, WT male mice fed pesticide chow had greater BW gain and more adiposity. Moreover, these WT males fed pesticide chow exhibited characteristics of hepatic steatosis and glucose intolerance, which were not observed in those fed control chow. WT exposed female mice exhibited fasting hyperglycemia, higher reduced glutathione (GSH):oxidized glutathione (GSSG) liver ratio and perturbations of gut microbiota-related urinary metabolites compared to WT mice fed control chow. When we performed these experiments on CAR-/- mice, pesticide-exposed CAR-/- males did not exhibit BW gain or changes in glucose metabolism compared to the CAR-/- males fed control chow. Moreover, CAR-/- females fed pesticide chow exhibited pesticide toxicity with higher BWs and mortality rate compared to the CAR-/- females fed control chow.

Conclusions: To our knowledge, we are the first to demonstrate a sexually dimorphic obesogenic and diabetogenic effect of chronic dietary exposure to a common mixture of pesticides at TDI levels, and to provide evidence for a partial role for CAR in an in vivo mouse model. This raises questions about the relevance of TDI for individual pesticides when present in a mixture.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Dietary Exposure
  • Fatty Liver / chemically induced
  • Female
  • Fungicides, Industrial / toxicity*
  • Glucose Metabolism Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Inactivation, Metabolic
  • Insecticides / toxicity*
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Metabolome / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / genetics*
  • Sex Factors
  • Toxicity Tests, Chronic


  • Fungicides, Industrial
  • Insecticides
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • constitutive androstane receptor
  • Glutathione