Consumption of drinking water N-Nitrosamines mixture alters gut microbiome and increases the obesity risk in young male rats

Environ Pollut. 2019 May;248:388-396. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2019.02.012. Epub 2019 Feb 4.


N-nitrosamines (NAs) are an emerging group of disinfection by-products that occur as a mixture in drinking water. Although the potency of the individual NA components in drinking water is negligible, their combined effect is rarely reported. We tested whether multicomponent NAs mixtures at environmentally relevant levels would produce significant effects when each component was combined at extremely low concentrations i.e. a million times lower than its No Observed Effect Concentration (NOEC). Mixture L (the maximum values detected in drinking water) or mixture M (one order of magnitude higher than detected) were fed to male and female Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats since PND 28 for seven days. We found that the body weight gains and the triglyceride (TG) levels increased significantly in mixture M treated male rats. Correspondingly, an obesogenic microbiota profile was obtained in the mixture M treated young male rat: Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes and the obesity-related taxa including Alistipes, Ruminococcus were enriched. Collectively, this is the first in vivo demonstration of NAs mixtures at environmentally relevant levels. Despite the complicated relationship between gut microbiota and obesity, our study has demonstrated that changes in gut microbiota may contribute to the development of obesity after the exposure. Our results highlight that changes in gut microbiota could be a risk factor for obesity, which emphasizes the need to include gut microbiota in the traditional mammalian risk assessment.

Keywords: Drinking water disinfection byproducts; Gut microbiota; N-Nitrosamines mixture exposure; Obesity.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteroidetes / growth & development
  • Disinfection
  • Drinking Water / chemistry*
  • Female
  • Firmicutes / growth & development
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Nitrosamines / adverse effects*
  • Obesity / chemically induced*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Ruminococcus / growth & development
  • Triglycerides / blood*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / adverse effects*
  • Water Purification / methods
  • Weight Gain / drug effects*


  • Drinking Water
  • Nitrosamines
  • Triglycerides
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical