Lack of immunotoxic effects of repeated exposure to atrazine associated with the adaptation of adrenal gland activation

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T cell-dependent IgM antibody production and natural killer cell (NKC) activity were assessed in SD rats orally administered atrazine for 28 days to males (0, 6.5, 25, or 100 mg/kg/day) or females (0, 3, 6, or 50 mg/kg/day), or 30 or 500 ppm in diet (3 or 51 mg/kg/day). Anti-asialo GM1 antibodies (NKC) and cyclophosphamide (antibody-forming cell assay [AFC]) served as positive controls. Pituitary (ACTH, prolactin), adrenal (corticosterone, progesterone, aldosterone), and gonadal (androgens, estrogens) hormones were assessed after 1, 7, and/or 28 days of treatment. Food intake and body weights were significantly reduced in the highest dosed males, and transiently affected in females. Urinary corticosterone levels were not increased in atrazine-treated groups in either sex at any time point measured (10, 22, or 24 days). Corticosterone and progesterone were elevated in males after a single atrazine dose ≥6.5 mg/kg/day, but not after 7, 14, or 28 doses. There were no effects on adrenal, pituitary, or gonadal hormones in females. Atrazine did not suppress the AFC response or decrease NKC function after 28 days in males or females. Atrazine had no effect on spleen weights or spleen cell numbers in males or females, although thymus weights were elevated in males receiving the highest dose. The lack of immunotoxic effect of atrazine was associated with diminished adrenal activation over time in males, and no effects on adrenal hormones in females.HighlightsA single dose of atrazine (≥6.5 mg/kg) activated the HPA axis in male SD rats.HPA activation indicated by increased plasma corticosterone and progesterone.HPA activation habituated after 7 days and was also absent at 14 and 28 days.Cell-mediated immunity (AFC) unaffected by atrazine at 28 days (males, females).Natural killer cell activity unaffected by atrazine at 28 days (males, females).

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