Longitudinal Metabolic Impacts of Perinatal Exposure to Phthalates and Phthalate Mixtures in Mice

Endocrinology. 2019 Jul 1;160(7):1613-1630. doi: 10.1210/en.2019-00287.


Developmental exposures to phthalates are suspected to contribute to risk of metabolic syndrome. However, findings from human studies are inconsistent, and long-term metabolic impacts of early-life phthalate and phthalate mixture exposures are not fully understood. Furthermore, most animal studies investigating metabolic impacts of developmental phthalate exposures have focused on diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), whereas newer phthalates, such as diisononyl phthalate (DINP), are understudied. We used a longitudinal mouse model to evaluate long-term metabolic impacts of perinatal exposures to three individual phthalates, DEHP, DINP, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP), as well as two mixtures (DEHP+DINP and DEHP+DINP+DBP). Phthalates were administered to pregnant and lactating females through phytoestrogen-free chow at the following exposure levels: 25 mg of DEHP/kg of chow, 25 mg of DBP/kg of chow, and 75 mg of DINP/kg of chow. One male and female per litter (n = 9 to 13 per sex per group) were weaned onto control chow and followed until 10 months of age. They underwent metabolic phenotyping at 2 and 8 months, and adipokines were measured in plasma collected at 10 months. Longitudinally, females perinatally exposed to DEHP only had increased body fat percentage and decreased lean mass percentage, whereas females perinatally exposed to DINP only had impaired glucose tolerance. Perinatal phthalate exposures also modified the relationship between body fat percentage and plasma adipokine levels at 10 months in females. Phthalate-exposed males did not exhibit statistically significant differences in the measured longitudinal metabolic outcomes. Surprisingly, perinatal phthalate mixture exposures were statistically significantly associated with few metabolic effects and were not associated with larger effects than single exposures, revealing complexities in metabolic effects of developmental phthalate mixture exposures.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipokines / blood
  • Animals
  • Body Composition / drug effects*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / drug effects
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism
  • Dibutyl Phthalate / toxicity*
  • Diethylhexyl Phthalate / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Glucose Intolerance / metabolism*
  • Lipase / drug effects
  • Lipase / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Phthalic Acids / toxicity*
  • Plasticizers / toxicity*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / metabolism*


  • Adipokines
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Phthalic Acids
  • Plasticizers
  • Dibutyl Phthalate
  • diisononyl phthalate
  • Diethylhexyl Phthalate
  • ATGL-1 protein, C elegans
  • Lipase