Gender Differences in Cardiac Remodeling Induced by a High-Fat Diet and Lifelong, Low-Dose Cadmium Exposure

Chem Res Toxicol. 2019 Jun 17;32(6):1070-1081. doi: 10.1021/acs.chemrestox.8b00386. Epub 2019 Apr 5.


Childhood obesity, which is prevalent in developed countries, is a metabolic risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Cadmium (Cd), a ubiquitous environmental toxic metal, also has deleterious effects on the cardiovascular system. However, the combined effects of a high-fat diet (HFD) and lifelong, low-dose Cd exposure on cardiac remodeling remain unclear. This study aims to determine the effects of combined HFD and Cd exposure on cardiac remodeling, as well as gender-specific differences in the response. C57BL/6J mice were exposed to Cd at a low dose (L-Cd, 0.5 ppm) or high dose (H-Cd, 5 ppm) via drinking water from conception to sacrifice. After being weaned, the offspring mice were fed with a HFD (42% kcal from fat) for an additional 10 weeks. H-Cd exposure significantly increased Cd accumulation in the hearts of both parents and their offspring; a HFD showed no added effects on cardiac Cd content. H-Cd exposure increased cardiac metallothionein protein levels only in female mice, regardless of dietary intake. Histological analysis revealed that H-Cd exposure combined with a HFD induced cardiac hypertrophy and fibrosis only in female mice. This was further supported by elevated expression of ANP and COL1A1 protein levels along with COL1A1, COL1A2, and COL3A1 mRNA levels. Profibrotic markers PAI-1, CTGF, and FN were also elevated in HFD/H-Cd-exposed female mice. Levels of the oxidative stress marker 3-NT significantly increased in the hearts of HFD-fed female mice, whereas Cd exposure showed no additional effects. Of all the antioxidant markers examined, levels of CAT significantly increased in mice fed a HFD, regardless of gender and Cd exposure. In summary, a HFD combined with lifelong, low-dose Cd exposure induces cardiac hypertrophy and fibrosis in female but not male mice, a response that is independent of oxidative stress.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cadmium / administration & dosage*
  • Cadmium / toxicity*
  • Cardiomegaly / chemically induced*
  • Cardiomegaly / pathology
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Fibrosis / chemically induced*
  • Fibrosis / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Sex Factors
  • Time Factors


  • Cadmium