In utero and lactational PCB exposure drives anatomic changes in the juvenile mouse bladder

Kimberly P. Keil Stietz, Conner L. Kennedy, Sunjay Sethi, Anthony Valenzuela, Alexandra Nunez, Kathy Wang, Zunyi Wang, Peiqing Wang, Audrey Spiegelhoff, Birgit Puschner, Dale E. Bjorling, Pamela J. Lein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Bladder dysfunction, including incontinence, difficulty emptying the bladder, or urgency to urinate is a pervasive health and quality of life concern. However, risk factors for developing these symptoms are not completely understood, and the influence of exposure to environmental chemicals, especially during development, on the formation and function of the bladder is understudied. Environmental contaminants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are known to pose a risk to the developing brain; however, their influence on the development of peripheral target organs, such as bladder, are unknown. To address this data gap, C57Bl/6J mouse dams were exposed to an environmentally-relevant PCB mixture at 0, 0.1, 1 or 6 mg/kg daily beginning two weeks prior to mating and continuing through gestation and lactation. Bladders were collected from offspring at postnatal days (P) 28–31. PCB concentrations were detected in bladders in a dose-dependent manner. PCB effects on the bladder were sex- and dose-dependent. Overall, PCB effects were observed in male, but not female, bladders. PCBs increased bladder volume and suburothelial βIII-tubulin-positive nerve density compared to vehicle control. A subset of these nerves were sensory peptidergic axons indicated by increased calcitonin gene-related protein (CGRP) positive nerve fibers in mice exposed to the highest PCB dose compared to the lowest PCB dose. PCB-induced increased nerve density was also positively correlated with the number of mast cells in the bladder, suggesting inflammation may be involved. There were no detectable changes in epithelial composition or apoptosis as indicated by expression of cleaved caspase 3, suggesting PCBs do not cause overt toxicity. Bladder volume changes were not accompanied by changes in bladder mass or epithelial thickness, indicating that obstruction was not likely involved. Together, these results are the first to suggest that following developmental exposure, PCBs can distribute to the bladder and alter neuroanatomic development and bladder volume in male mice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalCurrent Research in Toxicology
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Developmental origins of health and disease
  • Lower urinary tract
  • Peripheral nervous system
  • Persistent organic pollutants
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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