Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are persistent organic pollutants that remain a human health concern with newly discovered sources of contamination and ongoing bioaccumulation and biomagnification. Children exposed during early brain development are at highest risk of neurological deficits, but highly exposed adults reportedly have an increased risk of Parkinson's disease. Our previous studies found allelic differences in the aryl hydrocarbon receptor and cytochrome P450 1A2 (CYP1A2) affect sensitivity to developmental PCB exposure, resulting in cognitive deficits and motor dysfunction. High-affinity Ahr b Cyp1a2(-/-) mice were most sensitive compared with poor-affinity Ahr d Cyp1a2(-/-) and wild-type Ahr b Cyp1a2(+/+) mice. Our follow-up studies assessed biochemical, histological, and gene expression changes to identify the brain regions and pathways affected. We also measured PCB and metabolite levels in tissues to determine if genotype altered toxicokinetics. We found evidence of AHR-mediated toxicity with reduced thymus and spleen weights and significantly reduced thyroxine at P14 in PCB-exposed pups. In the brain, the greatest changes were seen in the cerebellum where a foliation defect was over-represented in Cyp1a2(-/-) mice. In contrast, we found no difference in tyrosine hydroxylase immunostaining in the striatum. Gene expression patterns varied across the three genotypes, but there was clear evidence of AHR activation. Distribution of parent PCB congeners also varied by genotype with strikingly high levels of PCB 77 in poor-affinity Ahr d Cyp1a2(-/-) while Ahr b Cyp1a2(+/+) mice effectively sequestered coplanar PCBs in the liver. Together, our data suggest that the AHR pathway plays a role in developmental PCB neurotoxicity, but we found little evidence that developmental exposure is a risk factor for Parkinson's disease.
Klinefelter, K., Hooven, M.K., Bates, C. et al. Genetic differences in the aryl hydrocarbon receptor and CYP1A2 affect sensitivity to developmental polychlorinated biphenyl exposure in mice: relevance to studies of human neurological disorders. Mamm Genome 29, 112–127 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00335-017-9728-1