Subchronic exposure to environmentally relevant concentrations of di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate differentially affects the colon and ileum in adult female mice

Shah Tauseef Bashir, Karen Chiu, Eileen Zheng, Angel Martinez, Justin Chiu, Kishori Raj, Sandra Stasiak, Nastasia Zhen Ee Lai, Rachel B. Arcanjo, Jodi A. Flaws, Romana A. Nowak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) is a large-molecular-weight phthalate added to plastics to impart versatile properties. DEHP can be found in medical equipment and devices, food containers, building materials, and children's toys. Although DEHP exposure occurs most commonly by ingesting contaminated foods in the majority of the population, its effects on the gastrointestinal tract have not been well studied. Therefore, we analyzed the effects of subchronic exposure to DEHP on the ileum and colon morphology, gene expression, and immune microenvironment. Adult C57BL/6 female mice were orally dosed with corn oil (control, n = 7) or DEHP (0.02, 0.2, or 30 mg/kg, n = 7/treatment dose) for 30–34 days. Mice were euthanized during diestrus, and colon and ileum tissues were collected for RT-qPCR and immunohistochemistry. Subchronic DEHP exposure in the ileum altered the expression of several immune-mediating factors (Muc1, Lyz1, Cldn1) and cell viability factors (Bcl2 and Aifm1). Similarly, DEHP exposure in the colon impacted the gene expression of factors involved in mediating immune responses (Muc3a, Zo2, Ocln, Il6, and Il17a); and also altered the expression of cell viability factors (Ki67, Bcl2, Cdk4, and Aifm1) as well as a specialized epithelial cell marker (Vil1). Immunohistochemical analysis of the ileum showed DEHP increased expression of VIL1, CLDN1, and TNF and decreased number of T-cells in the villi. Histological analysis of the colon showed DEHP altered morphology and reduced cell proliferation. Moreover, in the colon, DEHP increased the expression of MUC2, MUC1, VIL1, CLDN1, and TNF. DEHP also increased the number of T-cells and Type 2 immune cells in the colon. These data suggest that subchronic DEHP exposure differentially affects the ileum and colon and alters colonic morphology and the intestinal immune microenvironment. These results have important implications for understanding the effects of DEHP on the gastrointestinal system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number136680
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Colon
  • Endocrine-disrupting chemicals
  • Ileum
  • di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry


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