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Developmental Exposure to Polychlorinated Biphenyls (Aroclor 1254) Reduces Circulating Thyroid Hormone Concentrations and Causes Hearing Deficits in Rats

Goldey, E. S.; Kehn, L. S.; Lau, C.; Rehnberg, G. L.; Crofton, K. M.

Developmental hypothyroidism causes growth deficits, motor dysfunction, and hearing disorders in humans and animals. Therefore, environmental toxicants, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), may secondarily affect these endpoints via thyrotoxicity. In this study, Long-Evans rats were given Aroclor 1254 (po), at 0, 1, 4, or 8 mg/kg from Gestation Day 6 through Postnatal Day (PND) 21. We evaluated the offspring at various age intervals for circulating thyroid hormone concentrations [thyroid-stimulating hormone, and free and total triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxin (T4)], body weight, eye opening, survival, motor activity development, auditory startle response, and auditory thresholds. Circulating T4 concentrations were sharply reduced in a dose-dependent fashion in PCB-exposed groups at PND 1, 7, 14, 21, and 30 but recovered to control levels by PND 45. Moderate reductions in T3 concentrations were apparent in the 4 and 8 mg/kg groups on PND 21 and 30. Deficits in body weight gain and early eye opening were apparent in the treated pups; by weaning, pup mortality was 20% in the 4 mg/kg group and 50% at the highest dose. Motor activity was also transiently reduced in 15 day old offspring from the 8 mg/kg group. At this dose, animals showed reduced auditory startle amplitudes at PND 24, but not when tested as adults. Importantly, Aroclor 1254 caused permanent auditory deficits (20-30 dB threshold shift) at the lowest frequency tested (1 kHz) in both the 4 and 8 mg/kg groups, whereas auditory thresholds were not significantly affected at higher frequencies (4, 16, 32, or 40 kHz). These data indicate that while some effects of Aroclor 1254 exposure are dissimilar to drug-induced hypothyroidism (e.g., age of eye opening), effects on hormone levels and body weight are comparable. Detection of auditory deficits in PCB-treated animals is a novel finding and may reflect the effects of thyroid hormone disruption on the development of the cochlea.

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