Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Nutritional Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Lisa A. Cassis


Numerous epidemiology studies suggest a correlation between exposures to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and the development and severity of type 2 diabetes (T2D); however, mechanisms remain largely unknown. Previous studies demonstrated that PCBs that are ligands of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) promote the expression of proinflammatory cytokines, including tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), that are linked to insulin resistance in adipocytes. To explore potential mechanisms linking PCB exposures to diabetes, we developed a mouse model of glucose and insulin intolerance induced by acute and chronic exposures to PCB-77. We hypothesized that PCB ligands of AhR result in adipocyte-specific elevations in TNF-α and dysregulated glucose homeostasis. Results demonstrated that PCB77 resulted in rapid and sustained glucose and insulin intolerance in low fat (LF)-fed mice, and that these effects were associated with adipose-specific elevations in TNF-α. When mice were made obese from consumption of a high fat (HF) diet, effects of PCB77 were lost presumably due to concentration of the toxin in adipose lipids. However, upon weight loss, mice exposed to PCB77 exhibit impaired glucose homeostasis. These results suggest that lipophilic PCBs redistribute from adipose lipids with weight loss and mitigate beneficial effects to improve glucose homeostasis. To define the role of adipocyte AhR in PCB-induced diabetes, we created a mouse 3 model of adipocyte AhR deficiency using the Cre/LoxP system. Adipocyte-AhR deficiency conferred protection from the development of PCB-77-induced impairments in glucose and insulin tolerance in obese mice undergoing weight loss. Unexpectedly, adipocyte-AhR deficient mice fed the HF diet exhibited adipocyte hypertrophy, increased adipose mass and elevated body weight. These results suggest that (1) adipocyte AhRs are responsible for effects of PCB77 to impair glucose homeostasis during weight loss and (2) adipocyte AhRs respond to the HF diet to regulate adipose mass and body weight. We used resveratrol as a putative AhR antagonist to determine if the polyphenol confers protection against PCB-77-induced diabetes. Resveratrol abolished acute effects of PCB77 to impair glucose and insulin tolerance in LF-fed mice. Notably, PCB77 administration abolished insulin-induced phosphorylation of Akt in adipose tissue and these effects were abolished by resveratrol. Resveratrol also abolished marked suppressions in glucose uptake in adipocytes exposed to PCB77. These studies suggest the adipocyte AhR plays a potentially significant role in the development of diabetes and obesity, and that resveratrol may represent a novel therapeutic for PCB exposed populations.