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Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2014 Apr 1;276(1):63-72. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2014.01.019. Epub 2014 Feb 11.

Chronic exposure to low doses of pharmaceuticals disturbs the hepatic expression of circadian genes in lean and obese mice.

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INSERM, U991, Université de Rennes 1, 35000 Rennes, France.
Pathology Department, Saint-Joseph University, Beirut, Lebanon.
Mitologics SAS, Hôpital Robert Debré, 48 Boulevard Sérurier, 75019 Paris, France.
INSERM, U991, Université de Rennes 1, 35000 Rennes, France. Electronic address:


Drinking water can be contaminated with pharmaceuticals. However, it is uncertain whether this contamination can be harmful for the liver, especially during obesity. Hence, the goal of our study was to determine whether chronic exposure to low doses of pharmaceuticals could have deleterious effects on livers of lean and obese mice. To this end, lean and ob/ob male mice were treated for 4 months with a mixture of 11 drugs provided in drinking water at concentrations ranging from 10 to 10⁶ ng/l. At the end of the treatment, some liver and plasma abnormalities were observed in ob/ob mice treated with the cocktail containing 10⁶ ng/l of each drug. For this dosage, a gene expression analysis by microarray showed altered expression of circadian genes (e.g. Bmal1, Dbp, Cry1) in lean and obese mice. RT-qPCR analyses carried out in all groups of animals confirmed that expression of 8 different circadian genes was modified in a dose-dependent manner. For some genes, a significant modification was observed for dosages as low as 10²-10³ ng/l. Drug mixture and obesity presented an additive effect on circadian gene expression. These data were validated in an independent study performed in female mice. Thus, our study showed that chronic exposure to trace pharmaceuticals disturbed hepatic expression of circadian genes, particularly in obese mice. Because some of the 11 drugs can be found in drinking water at such concentrations (e.g. acetaminophen, carbamazepine, ibuprofen) our data could be relevant in environmental toxicology, especially for obese individuals exposed to these contaminants.


Circadian rhythm; Drug; Liver; Microarray; Mouse; Obesity

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