Horm Metab Res 2009; 41(6): 471-474
DOI: 10.1055/s-0029-1220768
Original Basic

© Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

Polychlorinated Biphenyls Affect Thyroid Function and Induce Autoimmunity in Sprague-Dawley Rats

J. Y. Gu 1 [*] , C. H. Qian 2 [*] , W. Tang 1 , X. H. Wu 1 , K. F. Xu 1 , W. A. Scherbaum 3 , M. Schott 3 , C. Liu 1
  • 1Department of Endocrinology, First Affiliated Hospital, Nanjing Medical University, Nanjing, P. R. China
  • 2Department of Endocrinology, Tenth Affiliated People's Hospital, Tongji University, Shanghai, P. R. China
  • 3Department of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Rheumatology, University Hospital Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany
Further Information

Publication History

received 29.01.2009

accepted 15.04.2009

Publication Date:
20 May 2009 (online)


Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have been reported to cause a variety of toxic effects. In order to assess the thyroid function after exposure to PCBs and investigate whether PCBs induce autoimmune process in the thyroid gland, we determined the levels of serum thyroid hormones (FT3, FT4, and T4), thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), and thyroid peroxidase antibody (TPOAb) in Sprague-Dawley rats treated with a commercial mixture of PCBs, Aroclor 1 254 (PCBs group), or the antithyroid drug, propyl-thiouracil (PTU group). The histopathology of the thyroid was also examined. Serum FT3, FT4, and T4 concentrations were significantly reduced, while TSH values were dramatically increased in PCBs group and PTU group compared with control rats (p<0.05). TPOAb levels were significantly elevated in PCBs-treated rats (p<0.05) but not in PTU group (p>0.05). In contrast to the controls, treatment with PCBs lead to distinct histopathological changes in the thyroid gland, such as hyperplasia of the epithelia in follicles, colloid content reduction, vascularization, and lymphocytic infiltration in the perifollicular areas, whereas the major changes in the thyroid in PTU-treated rats were follicles shrinkage or collapse and colloid content reduction compatible with induced hypothyroidism. The results indicate that PCBs affect thyroid function via the induction of autoimmunity, which is a mechanism different from the effect of antithyroid drug on the thyroid gland.


1 Both authors contributed equally to this article.


C. Liu

Department of Endocrinology

First Affiliated Hospital

Nanjing Medical University

300 Guangzhou Rd

210029 Nanjing

P. R. China

Phone: +86/25/837 188 36 6466/13337806688

Fax: +86/25/836 740 06

Email: [email protected]