Two Hits of EDCs three generations apart: Effects of Social Behaviors in Rats, and analysis by machine learning.
January 11, 2022
Gillette R, Dias M, Reilly MP, Thompson LM, Castillo NJ, Vasquez EL, Crews D, Gore AC
Toxics. 10, 30
All individuals are directly exposed to extant environmental endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), and indirectly exposed through transgenerational inheritance from our ancestors. Although direct and ancestral exposures can each lead to deficits in behaviors, their interactions are not known. Here we focused on social behaviors based on evidence of their vulnerability to direct or ancestral exposures, together with their importance in reproduction and survival of a species. Using a novel "two hits, three generations apart" experimental rat model, we investigated interactions of two classes of EDCs across six generations. PCBs (a weakly estrogenic mixture Aroclor 1221, 1 mg/kg), Vinclozolin (antiandrogenic, 1 mg/kg) or vehicle (6% DMSO in sesame oil) were administered to pregnant rat dams (F0) to directly expose the F1 generation, with subsequent breeding through paternal or maternal lines. A second EDC hit was given to F3 dams, thereby exposing the F4 generation, with breeding through the F6 generation. Approximately 1200 male and female rats from F1, F3, F4 and F6 generations were run through tests of sociability and social novelty as indices of social preference. We leveraged machine learning using DeepLabCut to analyze nuanced social behaviors such as nose touching with accuracy similar to a human scorer. Surprisingly, social behaviors were affected in ancestrally exposed but not directly exposed individuals, particularly females from a paternally exposed breeding lineage. Effects varied by EDC: Vinclozolin affected aspects of behavior in the F3 generation while PCBs affected both the F3 and F6 generations. Taken together, our data suggest that specific aspects of behavior are particularly vulnerable to heritable ancestral exposure of EDC contamination, that there are sex differences, and that lineage is a key factor in transgenerational outcomes.