Effects of Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Deficiency on PCB-77-Induced Impairment of Glucose Homeostasis during Weight Loss in Male and Female Obese Mice

Environ Health Perspect. 2019 Jul;127(7):77004. doi: 10.1289/EHP4133. Epub 2019 Jul 15.


Background: Lipophilic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) accumulate with obesity, but during weight loss, liberated PCBs act as ligands of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) to negatively influence health. Previous studies demonstrated that PCB-77 administration to obese male mice impaired glucose tolerance during weight loss. Recent studies indicate higher toxic equivalencies of dioxin-like PCBs in exposed females than males.

Objectives: We compared effects of PCB-77 on weight gain or loss and glucose homeostasis in male vs. female mice. We defined effects of AhR deficiency during weight gain or loss in male and female mice exposed to PCB-77.

Methods: Study design was vehicle (VEH) or PCB-77 administration while fed a high-fat (HF) diet for 12 wk, followed by weight loss for 4 wk. The following groups were examined: male and female C57BL/6 mice administered VEH or PCB-77, female [Formula: see text] and [Formula: see text] mice administered VEH or PCB-77, and male [Formula: see text] and [Formula: see text] mice administered PCB-77. Glucose tolerance was quantified during weight gain (week 11) and loss (week 15); liver and adipose AhR and IRS2 (insulin receptor substrate 2) mRNA abundance, and PCB-77 concentrations were quantified at week 16.

Results: PCB-77 attenuated development of obesity in females but not males. During weight loss, PCB-77 impaired glucose tolerance of males. AhR-deficient females (VEH) were resistant to diet-induced obesity. Compared with VEH-treated mice, HF-fed [Formula: see text] females treated with PCB-77 has less weight gain, and [Formula: see text] females had greater weight gain. During weight loss, [Formula: see text] females but not [Formula: see text] males treated with PCB-77 exhibited impaired glucose tolerance. In [Formula: see text] females administered PCB-77, IRS2 mRNA abundance was lower in adipose tissue compared with VEH-treated mice.

Conclusion: Male and female mice responded differently to PCB-77 and AhR deficiency in body weight (BW) regulation and glucose homeostasis. AhR deficiency reversed PCB-77-induced glucose impairment of obese males losing weight but augmented glucose intolerance of females. These results demonstrate sex differences in PCB-77-induced regulation of glucose homeostasis of mice. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP4133.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / deficiency*
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Female
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Homeostasis
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Obesity / chemically induced
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / adverse effects*
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon / deficiency*
  • Weight Loss / physiology*


  • Ahr protein, mouse
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls
  • Glucose
  • 3,4,3',4'-tetrachlorobiphenyl