Background Several studies have shown effects of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) on serum thyroid hormone levels in pregnant woman and their infants, while other studies did not find such effects. How PCBs might affect thyroid hormone metabolism, is still unclear. Potential mechanisms are direct influence on the thyroid gland, binding to thyroid binding proteins, increased excretion or metabolism of thyroid hormones by deiodinases or sulfatases. It is also not well known whether the effect on thyroid hormone levels is caused by PCBs themselves, or by their hydroxylated metabolites (OH-PCBs). Objective To determine the effects of perinatal exposure to PCBs and OH-PCBs on thyroid hormone levels in cord blood and in serum of newborn infants. Methods In a Dutch cohort of 100 mother-infant pairs, exposed to background PCB levels, correlations were assessed between 10 PCBs and 6 OH-PCBs in maternal blood during pregnancy and serum thyroxine (T4), T4 sulfate (T4S), triiodothyronine (T3), reverse T3 (rT3), thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroxine-binding globulin (TBG) levels in cord blood and in serum of three- and 18-month-old infants. We corrected for age of the mother, gestational age, gender and type of feeding. Results After correction, prenatal levels of three of 10 measured PCBs showed a positive correlation with cord serum T3, and four PCBs showed a negative correlation with cord serum rT3. After correction, two PCBs and the sum of the 10 measured PCBs were positively correlated with the cord serum T3/rT3 ratio, an indicator of deiodinase 3 activity. No correlations were found between PCBs and T4, TSH and TBG in cord blood. 4-OH-PCB-107 was correlated with T4 at 3 months and T4, T4S and T3 at 18 months. Conclusion Our results suggest that PCBs have a negative effect on deiodinase type 3 activity, as reflected by a positive correlation with the T3/rT3 ratio. We identified a potential mechanism by which PCBs may affect thyroid hormone metabolism during human development.

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Science of the Total Environment
Department of Internal Medicine

Soechitram, S.D. (Shalini D.), Berghuis, S.A. (Sietske), Visser, T., & Sauer, P.J.J. (Pieter). (2017). Polychlorinated biphenyl exposure and deiodinase activity in young infants. Science of the Total Environment, 574, 1117–1124. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.09.098