Hartman JK, Beames T, Parks B, Doheny D, Song G, Efremenko A, Yoon M, Foley B, Deisenroth C, McMullen PD, Clewell RA. 2018. An in vitro approach for prioritization and evaluation of chemical effects on glucocorticoid receptor mediated adipogenesis. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 355:112-126.
Rising obesity rates worldwide have socio-economic ramifications. While genetics, diet, and lack of exercise are major contributors to obesity, environmental factors may enhance susceptibility through disruption of hormone homeostasis and metabolic processes. The obesogen hypothesis contends that chemical exposure early in development may enhance adipocyte differentiation, thereby increasing the number of adipocytes and predisposing for obesity and metabolic disease. We previously developed a primary human adipose stem cell (hASC) assay to evaluate the effect of environmental chemicals on PPARG-dependent adipogenesis. Here, the assay was modified to determine the effects of chemicals on the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) pathway. In differentiation cocktail lacking the glucocorticoid agonist dexamethasone (DEX), hASCs do not differentiate into adipocytes. In the presence of GR agonists, adipocyte maturation was observed using phenotypic makers for lipid accumulation, adipokine secretion, and expression of key genes. To evaluate the role of environmental compounds on adipocyte differentiation, progenitor cells were treated with 19 prioritized compounds previously identified by ToxPi as having GR-dependent bioactivity, and multiplexed assays were used to confirm a GR-dependent mode of action. Five chemicals were found to be strong agonists. The assay was also modified to evaluate GR-antagonists, and 8/10 of the hypothesized antagonists inhibited adipogenesis. The in vitro bioactivity data was put into context with extrapolated human steady state concentrations (Css) and clinical exposure data (Cmax). These data support using a human adipose-derived stem cell differentiation assay to test the potential of chemicals to alter human GR-dependent adipogenesis.