Perinatal effects of exposure to PCBs on social preferences in young adult and middle-aged offspring mice
In social species, social interactions between conspecifics constitute a fundamental component to establish relations, provide best chances to reproduce, and even improve survival rates. In this study, a three-chambered social approach test was used to estimate the level of sociability and level of preference for social novelty in both male and female young adult (postnatal day (PND) 50) and middle-aged (PND 330) offspring mice (n = 10 per group) that were perinatally exposed to a mixture of six polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), 28, 52, 101, 138, 153, and 180, at environmentally low doses (10 and 1000 ng/kg b.w. for dams during gestation and lactation), a profile that closely mimics human exposure to contaminated fish. Our results showed that PCBs bidirectionally modulated social preferences in offspring mice, and the effects were sex and age dependent. However, increased levels of social interactions were rather frequently detected in both assays of the three-chambered test. Reduced social interaction was only induced in 1000 ng/kg PCB-exposed middle-aged males, which exhibited similar preferences to social and non-social stimuli when compared to middle-aged controls. Furthermore, results showed that plasma levels of both corticosterone and acetylcholinesterase activity were higher in all PCB-exposed middle-aged males and females than in their control counterparts. In summary, although the effects of PCBs were only of moderate magnitude, our results suggest that a PCB mixture can act as an endocrine disruptor in offspring mice, disturbing the formation of normal social habits.