Methoxychlor metabolite HPTE alters viability and differentiation of embryonic thymocytes from C57BL/6 mice

J Immunotoxicol. 2018 Dec;15(1):104-118. doi: 10.1080/1547691X.2018.1474978.


Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC) are widespread in the built and natural environments. Heightened public awareness of their potential danger has led to concern about whether EDC and their metabolites have significant negative biological effects. Studies have shown that EDC like DDT and other organochlorine pesticides, such as methoxychlor (MXC), have adverse effects on immune cells, but no studies have addressed the impact of HPTE, the primary metabolite of MXC. To elucidate the presence and significance of HPTE adverse effects, this study explored the impact of HPTE on a critical window and component of immune system development, embryonic T-cell development. Lesions at this phase of development can lead to lifelong immune dysfunction and increased incidence of immune disease, such as autoimmunity. Embry-onic thymocytes (GD 16-18) from C57BL/6 mice were subjected to an in vitro differentiation culture that mimicked early steps in thymocyte development in the presence of 0.005, 0.05, 0.5, 5, or 50 μM HPTE, or a model endocrine disruptor, DES. The results indicated that compared to the vehicle control, HPTE- and DES-induced death of thymocytes. Annexin-V staining and Caspase 8, markers of programed cell death, revealed that the loss of cells was due at least in part to induction of apoptosis. Moreover, HPTE-induced cell death not only resulted in selective loss of double positive thymocytes, but also loss of developing CD4 intermediate cells (post-double positive partially differentiated thymocyte population). Phenotypic analysis of thymocyte maturation (T-cell receptor, TCR) and TCR ligation (CD5) surface markers revealed that surviving embryonic thymocytes expressed low levels of both. Taken together these data demonstrate that immature embryonic thymocytes are sensitive to HPTE exposure and that HPTE exposure targets thymocyte populations undergoing critical differentiation steps. These findings suggest HPTE may play a pivotal role in MXC exposure-induced immune dysfunction.

Keywords: CD5; HPTE; Methoxychlor; T-cell development; apoptosis; embryonic development; embryonic thymocyte; endocrine disruptor; thymocyte differentiation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Survival
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Endocrine Disruptors / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Fetal Development
  • Fetus
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methoxychlor / toxicity*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Pesticides / toxicity*
  • Phenols / toxicity*
  • T-Lymphocytes / physiology*
  • Thymocytes / physiology*


  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Pesticides
  • Phenols
  • 2,2-bis(4-hydroxyphenyl)-1,1,1-trichloroethane
  • Methoxychlor