Evaluating maternal exposure to an environmental per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) mixture during pregnancy: Adverse maternal and fetoplacental effects in a New Zealand White (NZW) rabbit model

By Christine E Crute, Samantha M Hall, Chelsea D Landon, Angela Garner, Jeffrey I Everitt, Sharon Zhang, Bevin Blake, Didrik Olofsson, Henry Chen, Susan K Murphy, Heather M Stapleton, and Liping Feng
Sci Total Environ
June 13, 2022
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.156499

Mixtures of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are often found in drinking water, and serum PFAS are detected in up to 99% of the population. However, very little is known about how exposure to mixtures of PFAS affects maternal and fetal health. The aim of this study was to investigate maternal, fetal, and placental outcomes after preconceptional and gestational exposure to an environmentally relevant PFAS mixture in a New Zealand White (NZW) rabbit model. Dams were exposed via drinking water to control (no detectable PFAS) or a PFAS mixture for 32 days. This mixture was formulated with PFAS to resemble levels measured in tap water from Pittsboro, NC (10 PFAS compounds; total PFAS load = 758.6 ng/L). Maternal, fetal, and placental outcomes were evaluated at necropsy. Thyroid hormones were measured in maternal serum and kit blood. Placental gene expression was evaluated by RNAseq and qPCR. PFAS exposure resulted in higher body weight (p = 0.01), liver (p = 0.01) and kidney (p = 0.01) weights, blood pressure (p = 0.05), and BUN:CRE ratio (p = 0.04) in dams, along with microscopic changes in renal cortices. Fetal weight, measures, and histopathology were unchanged, but a significant interaction between dose and sex was detected in the fetal: placental weight ratio (p = 0.036). Placental macroscopic changes were present in PFAS-exposed dams. Dam serum showed lower T4 and a higher T3:T4 ratio, although not statistically significant. RNAseq revealed that 11 of the 14 differentially expressed genes (adj. p < 0.1) are involved in placentation or pregnancy complications. In summary, exposure elicited maternal weight gain and signs of hypertension, renal injury, sex-specific changes in placental response, and differential expression of genes involved in placentation and preeclampsia. Importantly, these are the first results to show adverse maternal and placental effects of an environmentally-relevant PFAS mixture in vivo.

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