Energy budgets have proven to be a valuable tool for predicting life history from physiological data in terrestrial vertebrates, yet these concepts have not been applied to the physiological effects of contaminants. Contaminants might affect energy budgets by imposing an additional metabolic cost or by reducing the overall amount of energy taken in; either process will reduce the energy available for production (i.e., growth or reproduction). This study examined whole animal energetic effects of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) exposure in white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus). Exposure to PCBs is known to reduce concentrations of plasma thyroid hormones, and thyroid hormones exert strong control over the rate of energy metabolism in mammals. Peromyscus leucopus that were proven breeders were fed PCBs in their food at 0, 10, and 25 ppm. Through lactation, offspring were exposed to PCB from conception and were maintained on the maternal diet to adulthood. No effects were seen on energy metabolism (O-2 consumption, measured in adulthood) or on growth, but there were large dose-dependent decreases in thyroid hormone concentrations, particularly T-4. The apparent disparity in our data between unchanged metabolic rates and 50% reductions in T-4 concentrations can be rationalized by noting that free T-3 (the fraction not bound to plasma protein) in treated mice was not significantly different from controls and that metabolism is most strongly influenced by free T-3. Overall, this study did not demonstrate any energetic consequences of PCB exposure in P. leucopus at dietary concentrations up to 25 ppm.
Additional publication details
Effects of pre- and postnatal polychlorinated biphenyl exposure on metabolic rate and thyroid hormones of white-footed mice