Female mice exposed to low doses of dioxin during pregnancy and lactation have increased susceptibility to diet-induced obesity and diabetes

Myriam P. Hoyeck, Rayanna C. Merhi, Hannah L. Blair, C. Duncan Spencer, ... Jennifer E. Bruin


Exposure to persistent organic pollutants is consistently associated with increased diabetes risk in humans. We investigated the short- and long-term impact of transient low-dose dioxin (2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin, TCDD) exposure during pregnancy and lactation on glucose homeostasis and beta cell function in female mice, including their response to a metabolic stressor later in life.


Female mice were injected with either corn oil (CO; vehicle control) or 20 ng/kg/d TCDD 2x/week throughout mating, pregnancy and lactation, and then tracked for 6–10 weeks after chemical exposure stopped. A subset of CO- and TCDD-exposed dams was then transferred to a 45% high-fat diet (HFD) or remained on a standard chow diet for an additional 11 weeks to assess the long-term effects of TCDD on adaptability to a metabolic stressor. To summarize, female mice were transiently exposed to TCDD and then subsequently tracked beyond when TCDD had been excreted to identify lasting metabolic effects of TCDD exposure.


TCDD-exposed dams were hypoglycemic at birth but otherwise had normal glucose homeostasis during and post-TCDD exposure. However, TCDD-exposed dams on a chow diet were modestly heavier than controls starting 5 weeks after the last TCDD injection, and their weight gain accelerated after transitioning to a HFD. TCDD-exposed dams also had an accelerated onset of hyperglycemia, impaired glucose-induced plasma insulin levels, reduced islet size, increased MAFA-ve beta cells, and increased proinsulin accumulation following HFD feeding compared to controls. Overall, our study demonstrates that low-dose TCDD exposure during pregnancy has minimal effects on metabolism during the period of active exposure, but has detrimental long-term effects on metabolic adaptability to HFD feeding.


Our study suggests that transient low-dose TCDD exposure in female mice impairs metabolic adaptability to HFD feeding, demonstrating that dioxin exposure may be a contributing factor to obesity and diabetes pathogenesis in females.