Skip Navigation

Duke University

Superfund Research Program

Thyroid Metabolism Disruption Key in Toxicant-Induced Developmental Impairment

Project Leader: Heather M. Stapleton
Co-Investigator: P. Lee Ferguson
Grant Number: P42ES010356
Funding Period: 2011-2017
View this project in the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT)

Project-Specific Links

Connect with the Grant Recipients

Visit the grantee's eNewsletter page Visit the grantee's eNewsletter page Visit the grantee's Twitter page Visit the grantee's Instagram page Visit the grantee's Facebook page Visit the grantee's Video page

Project Summary (2011-2017)

Many halogenated, persistent, and bioaccumulative contaminants have been classified as endocrine disrupters, and in many cases these contaminants negatively impact thyroid regulation. Many of these contaminants share similar chemical structures with thyroid hormones, including aromatic linkages, halogenated substitutents and hydroxylation of the aromatic rings. These structural similarities may result in competitive binding with the thyroid regulating enzymes, diodinases (DIs), which convert the pro-hormone, thyroxine (T4), to the active hormone, triiodothyronine (T3), and/or to thyroid nuclear receptors. Very few studies have explored the impacts of these contaminants on tissue-specific hormone levels and DI activity, and the potential consequences on development following early life exposure.

Preliminary studies by Dr. Stapleton demonstrate that PBDEs decrease circulating thyroid hormones in fathead minnows, and inhibit DI activity by more than 50% in vitro. Thus the research group proposes that the mechanism of thyroid toxicity involves impacts on deiodinase activity in tissues, affecting availability of T3 to bind to the thyroid nuclear receptors and activate transcriptional events critical to growth and development. The researchers' central hypothesis is that exposure to halogenated contamiinants (PBDEs and triclosan) alters thyroid homeostasis via impacts on DI activity and by competition with thyroid nuclear receptors. They are investigating this hypothesis using zebrafish as a model. The specific aims of this study are:

  1. To examine structure-activity relationships between halogenated aromatic contaminants and inner and outer ring DI activity in vitro;
  2. To examine the influence of chemical structure on binding and activation of thyroid hormone nuclear receptors;
  3. To examine impacts of PBDEs, chlorinated organophosphate compounds (e.g. chlorpyrifos), and BaP on DI activity in the mixed neuronal/glial cell cultures used in the NBTA core;
  4. To examine the effects of both acute and chronic exposure to PBDEs and triclosan on tissue-specific DI activity, thyroid hormone levels, and mRNA expression of thyroid genes in embryonic and larval stage zebrafish exposed in vivo; and
  5. To determine if early life exposure to PBDEs and triclosan affects development and behavior.


to Top