Nonylphenol Polyethoxylates Enhance Adipose Deposition in Developmentally Exposed Zebrafish

Toxics. 2022 Feb 20;10(2):99. doi: 10.3390/toxics10020099.


Alkylphenol polyethoxylates (APEOs), such as nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEOs), are high-production-volume surfactants used in laundry detergents, hard-surface cleaners, pesticide formulations, textile production, oils, paints, and other products. NPEOs comprise -80% of the total production of APEOs and are widely reported across diverse environmental matrices. Despite a growing push for replacement products, APEOs continue to be released into the environment through wastewater at significant levels. Research into related nonionic surfactants from varying sources has reported metabolic health impacts, and we have previously demonstrated that diverse APEOs and alcohol polyethoxylates promote adipogenesis in the murine 3T3-L1 pre-adipocyte model. These effects appeared to be independent of the base alkylphenol and related to the ethoxylate chain length, though limited research has evaluated NPEO exposures in animal models. The goals of this study were to assess the potential of NPEOs to promote adiposity (Nile red fluorescence quantification) and alter growth and/or development (toxicity, length, weight, and energy expenditure) of developmentally exposed zebrafish (Danio rerio). We also sought to expand our understanding of the ability to promote adiposity through evaluation in human mesenchymal stem cells. Herein, we demonstrated consistent adipogenic effects in two separate human bone-marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cell models, and that nonylphenol and its ethoxylates promoted weight gain and increased adipose deposition in developmentally exposed zebrafish. Notably, across both cell and zebrafish models we report increasing adipogenic/obesogenic activity with increasing ethoxylate chain lengths up to maximums around NPEO-6 and then decreasing activity with the longest ethoxylate chain lengths. This research suggests metabolic health concerns for these common obesogens, suggesting further need to assess molecular mechanisms and better characterize environmental concentrations for human health risk assessments.

Keywords: adipogenesis; alkylphenol ethoxylates; endocrine disrupting chemicals; ethoxylated surfactants; mixtures; obesogen.