Thyroid hormone status and pituitary function in adult rats given oral doses of perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS)

Shu Ching Chang, Julie R. Thibodeaux, Mary L. Eastvold, David J. Ehresman, James A. Bjork, John W. Froehlich, Christopher Lau, Ravinder J. Singh, Kendall B Wallace, John L. Butenhoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

164 Scopus citations


Introduction: Perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) is widely distributed and persistent in humans and wildlife. Prior toxicological studies have reported decreased total and free thyroid hormones in serum without a major compensatory rise in thyrotropin (TSH) or altered thyroid gland histology. Although these animals (rats, mice and monkeys) might have maintained an euthyroid state, the basis for hypothyroxinemia remained unclear. We undertook this study to investigate the causes for the PFOS-induced reduction of serum total thyroxine (TT4) in rats. Hypotheses: We hypothesized that exposure to PFOS may increase free thyroxine (FT4) in the rat serum due to the ability of PFOS to compete with thyroxine for binding proteins. The increase in FT4 would increase the availability of the thyroid hormone to peripheral tissues for utilization, metabolic conversation, and excretion. We also hypothesized that PFOS does not directly interfere with the regulatory functions of the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis in rats. Experiments: Three experimental designs were employed to test these hypotheses. (1) Female Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats were given a single oral dose of 15 mg potassium PFOS/kg body weight. At intervals of 2, 6, and 24 h thereafter, measurements were made for serum FT4, TT4, triiodothyronine (TT3), reverse triiodothyronine (rT3), thryrotropin (TSH), and PFOS concentrations, as well as liver PFOS concentrations, UDP-glucuronosyltransferase 1A (UGT1A) family mRNA transcripts, and malic enzyme (ME) mRNA transcripts and activity. (2) To provide evidence for increased uptake and metabolism of thyroxine (T4), 125I-T4 was given to male and female SD rats by intravenous injection, followed in 2 h by a single oral dose of 15 mg potassium PFOS/kg body weight. 125I radioactivity was determined in urine and feces collected over a 24-h period and in serum and liver collected at 24 h. (3) To assess the potentials effect of PFOS on the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis, over an 8-day period, groups of male SD rats were given PFOS (3 mg/kg-d), propyl thiouracil (PTU, 10 μg/mL in water), or PTU and PFOS in combination, with controls receiving 0.5% Tween® 20 vehicle. On days 1, 3, 7, and 8, TT4, TT3, and TSH were monitored. On day 8, pituitaries were removed and placed in static culture for assessment of thyrotropin releasing hormone (TRH)-mediated release of TSH. Results: (1) PFOS transiently increased FT4 and decreased TSH within 6 h, with values returning to control levels by 24 h. TT4 was decreased by 55% over a 24-h period. TT3 and rT3 were decreased at 24 h to a lesser extent than TT4. ME mRNA transcripts were increased at 2 h and activity was increased at 24 h. UGT1A mRNA transcripts were increased at 2 and 6 h. (2) 125I decreased in serum and liver relative to controls and consistent with a reduction in serum TT4. Concomitantly, 125I activity was increased in urine and feces collected from PFOS-treated rats. (3) During the 8 days of dosing with PFOS, TSH was not elevated in male rats, while TT4 and TT3 were decreased. Pituitary response to TRH-mediated TSH release was not diminished after 8-daily oral doses of PFOS. Conclusions: These findings suggest that oral dosing in rats with PFOS results in transiently increased tissue availability of the thyroid hormones and turnover of T4 with a resulting reduction in serum TT4. PFOS does not induce a classical hypothyroid state under dosing conditions employed nor does it alter HPT activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)330-339
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 20 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Notice: The information in this document has been funded by 3M Company and the US Environmental Protection Agency. It has been subjected to review by the National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory and approved for publication. Approval does not signify that the contents reflect the views of the Agency, nor does mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.

Copyright 2008 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • I
  • Liver
  • Perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS)
  • Thyroid hormones


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