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The influence of sex, genotype, and dose on serum and hippocampal cytokine levels in juvenile mice developmentally exposed to a human-relevant mixture of polychlorinated biphenyls


Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are pervasive environmental contaminants implicated as risk factors for neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs). Immune dysregulation is another NDD risk factor, and developmental PCB exposures are associated with early life immune dysregulation. Studies of the immunomodulatory effects of PCBs have focused on the higher-chlorinated congeners found in legacy commercial mixtures. Comparatively little is known about the immune effects of contemporary, lower-chlorinated PCBs. This is a critical data gap given recent reports that lower-chlorinated congeners comprise >70% of the total PCB burden in serum of pregnant women enrolled in the MARBLES study who are at increased risk for having a child with an NDD. To examine the influence of PCBs, sex, and genotype on cytokine levels, mice were exposed throughout gestation and lactation to a PCB mixture in the maternal diet, which was based on the 12 most abundant PCBs in sera from MARBLES subjects. Using multiplex array, cytokines were quantified in the serum and hippocampus of weanling mice expressing either a human gain-of-function mutation in ryanodine receptor 1 (T4826I mice), a human CGG premutation repeat expansion in the fragile X mental retardation gene 1 (CGG mice), or both mutations (DM mice). Congenic wildtype (WT) mice were used as controls. There were dose-dependent effects of PCB exposure on cytokine concentrations in the serum but not hippocampus. Differential effects of genotype were observed in the serum and hippocampus. Hippocampal cytokines were consistently elevated in T4826I mice and also in WT animals for some cytokines compared to CGG and DM mice, while serum cytokines were usually elevated in the mutant genotypes compared to the WT group. Males had elevated levels of 19 cytokines in the serum and 4 in the hippocampus compared to females, but there were also interactions between sex and genotype for 7 hippocampal cytokines. Only the chemokine CCL5 in the serum showed an interaction between PCB dose, genotype, and sex. Collectively, these findings indicate differential influences of PCB exposure and genotype on cytokine levels in serum and hippocampal tissue of weanling mice. These results suggest that developmental PCB exposure has chronic effects on baseline serum, but not hippocampal, cytokine levels in juvenile mice.

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