Human populations are simultaneously exposed to a variety of anthropogenic contaminants. However, despite extensive literature on animal exposure to single compounds, data on the toxicity of complex mixtures are scarce. The Northern Contaminant Mixture (NCM) was formulated to contain the 27 most abundant contaminants in the same relative proportions found in the blood of Canadian Arctic populations. Sprague-Dawley rat dams were dosed from the first day of gestation until weaning with methylmercury (MeHg), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) or organochlorines pesticides (OCs) administered either separately or together in the NCM. An additional control group for hypothyroxinemia was included by dosing dams with the goitrogen 6-propyl-2-thiouracil (PTU). Offspring growth, survival, serum thyroxine and Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) levels, thyroid gland morphology, brain taurine content and cerebellum and hippocampus protein expression patterns resulting from such exposures were monitored. Pups' increased mortality rate and impaired growth observed in the NCM treatment group were attributed to MeHg, while decreased circulating thyroxine levels and perturbations of thyroid gland morphology were mostly attributable to PCBs. Interestingly, despite comparable reduction in serum thyroxine levels, PCBs and PTU exposures produced markedly different effects on pup's growth, serum TSH level and brain taurine content. Analysis of cerebellum and hippocampus protein expression patterns corroborated previous cerebellum gene expression data, as contaminant co-exposure in the NCM significantly masked the effects of individual components on protein two-dimensional electrophoresis patterns. Identification by MALDI-TOF/TOF MS of differentially expressed proteins involved notably in neuronal and mitochondrial functions provided clues on the cellular and molecular processes affected by these contaminant mixtures.
Pelletier G, Masson S, Wade MJ, Nakai J, Alwis R, Mohottalage S, Kumarathasan P, Black P, Bowers WJ, Chu I, Vincent R. Contribution of methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls and organochlorine pesticides to the toxicity of a contaminant mixture based on Canadian Arctic population blood profiles. Toxicol Lett. 2008 November Hazard Identification Division, Environmental Health, Science and Research Bureau, Chemicals Management Directorate, Health Canada, Canada.