Phthalates are synthetic chemicals widely used as plasticizers and stabilizers in various consumer products. Because of the extensive production and use of phthalates, humans are exposed to these chemicals daily. While most studies focus on a single phthalate, humans are exposed to a mixture of phthalates on a regular basis. The impact of continuous exposure to phthalate mixture on uterus is largely unknown. Thus, we conducted studies in which adult female mice were exposed for 6 months to 0.15 ppm and 1.5 ppm of a mixture of phthalates via chow ad libitum. Our studies revealed that consumption of phthalate mixture at 0.15 ppm and 1.5 ppm for 6 months led to a significant increase in the thickness of the myometrial layer compared to control. Further investigation employing RNA-sequencing revealed an elevated transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) signaling in the uteri of mice fed with phthalate mixture. TGF-β signaling is associated with the development of fibrosis, a consequence of excessive accumulation of extracellular matrix components, such as collagen fibers in a tissue. Consistent with this observation, we found a higher incidence of collagen deposition in uteri of mice exposed to phthalate mixture compared to unexposed controls. Second Harmonic Generation (SHG) imaging showed disorganized collagen fibers and nanoindentation indicated a local increase in uterine stiffness upon exposure to phthalate mixture. Collectively, our results demonstrate that chronic exposure to phthalate mixture can have adverse eﬀects on uterine homeostasis.
- Tissue Stiffness
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