Nonylphenol alters the activity of splenic NK cells and the numbers of leukocyte subpopulations in Sprague-Dawley rats: a two-generation feeding study
Nonylphenol (NP) has been identified at low levels in surface waters throughout North America. This industrial chemical is primarily used for the production of certain non-ionic surfactants, and has been reported to have weak estrogen-like activity. As estrogen has immunoregulatory properties and is crucial for normal fetal development, it was hypothesized that adult and developmental exposures to NP had the potential to adversely affect the immune system. Furthermore, developmental exposure to NP might also produce differential immunomodulation in F(1) male and female rats. Thus, a two-generation feeding study was conducted to evaluate the potential for NP to modulate certain immune parameters. Pregnant female Sprague-Dawley rats were exposed to NP (0, 25, 500, and 2000 ppm) in their feed for 65 days, beginning 7 days into gestation. The F(1) generation male and female offspring were exposed in utero at the respective treatment levels, commencing the 7th day of gestation, and continuing through to 64 days of age. Changes in splenic antibody-forming cell response, natural killer cell activity, and leukocyte numbers were used to evaluate NP immunotoxicity. The results from the present study indicate that dietary exposure to NP can increase splenic natural killer (NK) cell activity and splenocyte subpopulation numbers in the F(1) generation rats, without similar changes to the F(0) generation. The immunological changes that were observed in the F(1) generation also appeared to be gender-specific.