Hepatic Tumor Formation in Adult Mice Developmentally Exposed to Organotin

Environ Health Perspect. 2020 Jan;128(1):17010. doi: 10.1289/EHP5414. Epub 2020 Jan 15.


Background: Tributyltin (TBT) is a persistent and bioaccumulative environmental toxicant. Developmental exposure to TBT has been shown to cause fatty liver disease (steatosis), as well as increased adiposity in many species, leading to its characterization as an obesogen.

Objective: We aimed to determine the long-term effects of developmental TBT exposure on the liver.

Methods: C57BL/6J mice were exposed to a dose of TBT (0.5mg/kg body weight per day; 3.07μM) below the current developmental no observed adverse effect level (NOAEL) via drinking water, or drinking water alone, provided to the dam from preconception through lactation. Sires were exposed during breeding and lactation. Pups from two parity cycles were included in this study. Animals were followed longitudinally, and livers of offspring were analyzed by pathological evaluation, immunohistochemistry, immunoblotting, and RNA sequencing.

Results: Developmental exposure to TBT led to increased adiposity and hepatic steatosis at 14 and 20 weeks of age and increased liver adenomas at 45 weeks of age in male offspring. Female offspring displayed increased adiposity as compared with males, but TBT did not lead to an increase in fatty liver or tumor development in female offspring. Liver tumors in male mice were enriched in pathways and gene signatures associated with human and rodent nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). This includes down-regulation of growth hormone receptor (GHR) and of STAT5 signaling, which occurred in response to TBT exposure and preceded liver tumor development.

Conclusions: These data reveal a previously unappreciated ability of TBT to increase risk for liver tumorigenesis in mice in a sex-specific manner. Taken together, these findings provide new insights into how early life environmental exposures contribute to liver disease in adulthood. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP5414.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity
  • Animals
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Organotin Compounds / toxicity*
  • Toxicity Tests


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Organotin Compounds