Gut Microbiome Critically Impacts PCB-induced Changes in Metabolic Fingerprints and the Hepatic Transcriptome in Mice

Joe Jongpyo Lim, Xueshu Li, Hans Joachim Lehmler, Dongfang Wang, Haiwei Gu, Julia Yue Cui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are ubiquitously detected and have been linked to metabolic diseases. Gut microbiome is recognized as a critical regulator of disease susceptibility; however, little is known how PCBs and gut microbiome interact to modulate hepatic xenobiotic and intermediary metabolism. We hypothesized the gut microbiome regulates PCB-mediated changes in the metabolic fingerprints and hepatic transcriptome. Ninety-day-old female conventional and germ-free mice were orally exposed to the Fox River Mixture (synthetic PCB mixture, 6 or 30 mg/kg) or corn oil (vehicle control, 10 ml/kg), once daily for 3 consecutive days. RNA-seq was conducted in liver, and endogenous metabolites were measured in liver and serum by LC-MS. Prototypical target genes of aryl hydrocarbon receptor, pregnane X receptor, and constitutive androstane receptor were more readily upregulated by PCBs in conventional conditions, indicating PCBs, to the hepatic transcriptome, act partly through the gut microbiome. In a gut microbiome-dependent manner, xenobiotic, and steroid metabolism pathways were upregulated, whereas response to misfolded proteins-related pathways was downregulated by PCBs. At the high PCB dose, NADP, and arginine appear to interact with drug-metabolizing enzymes (ie, Cyp1–3 family), which are highly correlated with Ruminiclostridium and Roseburia, providing a novel explanation of gut-liver interaction from PCB-exposure. Utilizing the Library of Integrated Network-based Cellular Signatures L1000 database, therapeutics targeting anti-inflammatory and endoplasmic reticulum stress pathways are predicted to be remedies that can mitigate PCB toxicity. Our findings demonstrate that habitation of the gut microbiota drives PCB-mediated hepatic responses. Our study adds knowledge of physiological response differences from PCB exposure and considerations for further investigations for gut microbiome-dependent therapeutics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)168-187
Number of pages20
JournalToxicological Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • Bioinformatics
  • Biotransformation
  • Cytochrome P450
  • Environmental
  • Environmental chemicals
  • Exposure
  • Hepatotoxicity
  • Metabolomics
  • Molecular mechanisms
  • RNA-seq
  • Toxicogenomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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