Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2016

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Human Toxicology

First Advisor

Larry W. Robertson

Second Advisor

Aloysius J. Klingelhutz

First Committee Member

Justin L Grobe

Second Committee Member

Gabriele Ludewig

Third Committee Member

Katherine Gibson-Corley


Recently, persistent organic pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were classified as “metabolic disruptors” for their suspected roles is altering metabolic and energy homeostasis through bioaccumulation in liver and adipose tissues. Among PCBs, a specific congener, 3,3',4,4',5-pentachlorobiphenyl (PCB126), is a potent arylhydrocarbon receptor (AhR) agonist and elicits toxicity similar to the classic dioxin, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). PCB126 levels found in human blood are particularly associated with diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in humans, however the mechanisms are unclear.

We hypothesized that the accumulation of PCB126 disrupts carbohydrate and lipid metabolism by altering the functions of liver and adipose tissues. Hence, our objective was to characterize PCB126 induced-metabolic disruption and the underlying molecular mechanisms that cause toxicity. Separate animal studies were performed using a rat model to understand the time- and dose-dependent effects after PCB126 administration. The chronology of PCB126 toxicity showed early decreases in serum glucose level at 9 h, worsened in a time-dependent way until the end of the study at 12 d. Lipid accumulation and the liver pathology also worsened over time between 3 d and 12 d post administration. These observed effects in the liver were also found to be dose-dependent. The decrease in serum glucose was a result of a decrease in the transcript levels of gluconeogenic and glycogenolytic enzymes, necessary for hepatic glucose production and hence the maintenance of steady glucose levels in the blood. Phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK-C), the rate limiting enzyme of gluconeogenesis, was found to be significantly decreased upon exposure to PCB126. The expression levels of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (Pparα) and some of its targets involved in fatty acid oxidation were also found to be time and dose-dependently decreased upon exposure to PCB126. In an attempt to understand the molecular targets that may cause these dual effects on both gluconeogenic and fatty acid oxidation, we found that PCB126 significantly decreases phosphorylation of the cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB). CREB is a nuclear transcription factor that is activated in the liver through phosphorylation; to switch-on the transcription of enzymes that catalyze gluconeogenesis and fatty acid oxidation, in order to meet energy demands, especially during fasting.

Further, to understand the toxicity of PCB126 on adipose tissue, a human pre-adipocyte model that can be differentiated into mature adipocytes was used. In these studies, we found that exposure of preadipocytes to PCB126 resulted in a significant reduction in their ability to differentiate into adipocytes. This results in decreased lipid accumulation in the adipocyte. Reduction in the differentiation by PCB126 was associated with down regulation in transcript levels of a key adipocyte transcription factor, PPARγ and its transcriptional targets necessary for adipogenesis and adipocyte function. These inhibitory effects of PCB126 on the regulation of PPARγ and the initiation of adipogenesis were mediated through activation of AhR.

Overall, this work shows that PCB126 disrupts nutrient homeostasis through its effects on the function of target tissues; liver and adipose. PCB126 significantly alters the nutrient homeostasis through its effects on gluconeogenesis and fatty-acid oxidation necessary for glucose and energy regulation during fasting. In addition, PCB126 interrupts the storage functions of adipose tissue by inhibiting adipogenesis and thus disrupts lipid storage and distribution


AhR, PPAR, CREB, gluconoegenesis, glucose metabolism, liver steatosis, metabolic disruption, PCBs, dioxin


xvii, 142 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 117-142).


Copyright © 2016 Gopi Srinivas Gadupudi

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