Relative sensitivity of developmental and immune parameters in juvenile versus adult male rats after exposure to di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate

Elisa C. M. Tonk*, Aart Verhoef, Eric R. Gremmer, Henk van Loveren, Aldert H. Piersma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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The developing immune system displays a relatively high sensitivity as compared to both general toxicity parameters and to the adult immune system. In this study we have performed such comparisons using di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) as a model compound. DEHP is the most abundant phthalate in the environment and perinatal exposure to DEHP has been shown to disrupt male sexual differentiation. In addition, phthalate exposure has been associated with immune dysfunction as evidenced by effects on the expression of allergy. Male wistar rats were dosed with corn oil or DEHP by gavage from postnatal day (PND) 10-50 or PND 50-90 at doses between 1 and 1000 mg/kg/day. Androgen-dependent organ weights showed effects at lower dose levels in juvenile versus adult animals. Immune parameters affected included TDAR parameters in both age groups, NK activity in juvenile animals and TNF-alpha production by adherent splenocytes in adult animals. Immune parameters were affected at lower dose levels compared to developmental parameters. Overall, more immune parameters were affected in juvenile animals compared to adult animals and effects were observed at lower dose levels. The results of this study show a relatively higher sensitivity of juvenile versus adult rats. Furthermore, they illustrate the relative sensitivity of the developing immune system in juvenile animals as compared to general toxicity and developmental parameters. This study therefore provides further argumentation for performing dedicated developmental immune toxicity testing as a default in regulatory toxicology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-57
JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2012


  • Developmental immunotoxicity
  • Phthalates
  • DEHP
  • Juvenile toxicity
  • Rat
  • Benchmark dose approach

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