Theses Doctoral

Bisphenol A Exposure, Adipogenic Mechanism and Effect on Childhood Adiposity

Hoepner, Lori A.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a common component in plastic consumer products and epoxy resin linings. Initially developed in the 1930s-40s as a synthetic hormone treatment, it is now widely considered an endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC). A growing body of epidemiological literature suggests that ubiquitous exposures to BPA may be contributing to the global epidemic of obesity, with children a particularly vulnerable population. Obesity in children, defined by a body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to the 95th percentile for age and sex, is an epidemic of great concern in the United States. As with other chemicals, the prenatal and early life period are critical windows of exposure to BPA; however, the mechanism by which BPA may influence the development of body size in children remains unclear. Experimental studies have found that BPA influences adipogenesis in both murine and adult human preadipocyte cell lines and BPA is hypothesized to play a role in enhancing adipogenic regulation by nuclear receptors such as peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ). While the timeline of the processes involved in adipogenesis in humans is not universally agreed upon, it is accepted that PPARγ is highly expressed in adipose tissue and considered to be the master regulator of adipogenesis. To answer the question of both timing and developmental origin of BPA effects on adipogensis, we employed both an epidemiological approach, and experimental methodologies using primordial cell lines, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Our study characterizes early life exposures to BPA, explores the adipogenic mechanism of BPA in human MSCs via cellular morphometrics and PPARγ gene expression, and identifies associations between early life exposure to BPA and childhood obesity and adiposity.
For our epidemiological assessments, we studied a birth cohort of African American and Dominican mother and child dyads in New York City. BPA was measured in spot urine samples collected during pregnancy and at child ages 3, 5, and 7 years, from mothers and children (n=568 dyads) in the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH). We compared BPA concentrations across paired samples. We explored relationships between BPA and the class of phthalate chemicals, another common plasticizer.
BPA was detected in nearly all urine samples from prenatal third trimester and childhood ages 3 years, 5 years and 7 years. Prenatal urinary BPA concentrations were significantly lower than postnatal urinary BPA concentrations (p<0.001). BPA and phthalate metabolites were correlated prenatally and at 3, 5, and 7 years (all p-values < 0.02). BPA concentrations were correlated with phthalate metabolite concentrations prenatally, and at 3, 5 and 7 years(all p-values < 0.05). Geometric means of BPA were higher among African Americans than among Dominicans in prenatal (p<0.01), 5 year (p<0.001) and 7 year (p=0.02) samples. Postnatal BPA concentrations were significantly higher among children with mothers who had never marrried marital status and were significantly higher in summer than in all other seasons (all p-values < 0.05). These findings reveal widespread BPA exposure in an inner-city minority population.
Our in vitro experiment was a feasibility study which sought to determine whether exposure to BPA by human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells (HUMSC) induces morphological changes and PPARγ gene expression during adipogenesis. An anonymous sample of n=18 umbilical cords was collected at delivery from mothers registered at New York-Presbyterian Sloane Hospital for Women and New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital in New York City. HUMSCs were harvested from umbilical cords using an adhesion technique. HUMSCs were then induced in culture to differentiate into adipocytes using: a standard differentiation induction mix medium, a negative vehicle control medium, a positive control medium and experimental control media. Differences in cell surface area and cell count in all cultures were assessed using ImageJ software (version 1.49n, 2014). Gene expression of PPARγ in all cultures was evaluated by RT-PCR. Cell morphometric results were based on 11,676 cells from 3 umbilical cord samples. PPARγ1 and PPARγ2 gene expression was assessed during differntiation phase and early terminal phase adipogenesis (0 to 72 hours). Cell morphometrics were assessed during middle to late terminal phase adipogenesis (days 14 and 21). No differences in cell count were observed for experimental conditions compared to standard induction medium. A significant decrease in surface area was seen in cells exposed to 100 μM concentration of BPA as compared to exposure to standard induction medium at day 14 (t=-37.02 p=0.001). Differences in cell surface area were not observed at day 21. A twofold increased expression of PPARγ1 was observed in cells exposed to 10 μM concentration of BPA by 72 hours of adipogenic induction which was higher than the increase in expression observed for cells exposed to the positive control induction medium containing 10 μM concentration of rosiglitazone. All induction media conditions had negligible effects on PPARγ2 expression. As BPA increases expression of PPARγ1 in HUMSCs during the transition into the early terminal differentiation phase of adipogenesis, HUMSCs may be an approximate target tissue for evaluating BPA effects in adipogenesis.
Finally, using a longitudinal research design, we analyzed the possible effect of prenatal and postnatal BPA exposures, measured in urine, on childhood anthropometric outcome measures. Participants in the CCCEH have been followed since the third trimester of pregnancy, providing us with anthropometric data on children from birth through the age of seven years. Available anthropometric outcome measures include body mass index z-scores (BMIZ) at 5 and 7 years, as well as fat mass index (FMI), percent body fat (%BF), and waist circumference (WC) at 7 years. Prenatal urinary BPA concentrations were positively associated with child age 7 FMI (beta=0.31 kg/m2, p-value=0.04, [95%CI 0.01, 0.60]), %BF (beta=0.79, p-value=0.04, [95%CI 0.03, 1.55]), and WC (beta=1.29 cm, p-value=0.01, [95%CI 0.29, 2.30]). Child urinary BPA concentrations were not associated with childhood BMI or other anthropometric outcomes. As the prenatal exposures were associated with childhood measures of adiposity, prenatal BPA exposure may have an effect on adiposity as children age that cannot be determined by the use of BMI alone. Our results suggest BPA may contribute to the developmental origins of obesity and adiposity.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Environmental Health Sciences
Thesis Advisors
Whyatt, Robin
Dr.P.H., Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University
Published Here
June 27, 2017