Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are a class of brominated flame retardants that were extensively used in commercial products. PBDEs are ubiquitous environmental contaminants that are both lipophilic and bioaccumulative. Effects of PBDEs on adipogenesis were studied in the 3T3-L1 preadipocyte cell model in the presence and absence of a known adipogenic agent, dexamethasone (DEX). A PBDE mixture designed to mimic body burden of North Americans was tested, in addition to the technical mixture DE-71 and the individual congener BDE-47. The mixture, DE-71, and BDE-47 all induced adipocyte differentiation as assessed by markers for terminal differentiation [fatty acid binding protein 4 (aP2) and perilipin] and lipid accumulation. Characterization of the differentiation process in response to PBDEs indicated that adipogenesis induced by a minimally effective dose of DEX was enhanced by these PBDEs. Moreover, C/EBPalpha, PPARgamma, and LXRalpha were induced late in the differentiation process. Taken together, these data indicate that adipocyte differentiation is induced by PBDEs; they act in the absence of glucocorticoid and enhance glucocorticoid-mediated adipogenesis.
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