Vinyl Chloride and High-Fat Diet as a Model of Environment and Obesity Interaction

This article has been accepted and is currently in production

Abstract

Vinyl chloride (VC), an abundant environmental contaminant, causes steatohepatitis at high levels, but is considered safe at lower levels. Although several studies have investigated the role of VC as a direct hepatotoxicant, the concept that VC modifies sensitivity of the liver to other factors, such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) caused by high-fat diet (HFD) is novel. This protocol describes an exposure paradigm to evaluate the effects of chronic, low-level exposure to VC. Mice are acclimated to low-fat or high-fat diet one week prior to the beginning of the inhalation exposure and remain on these diets throughout the experiment. Mice are exposed to VC (sub-OSHA level: <1 ppm) or room air in inhalation chambers for 6 hours/day, 5 days/week, for up to 12 weeks. Animals are monitored weekly for body weight gain and food consumption. This model of VC exposure causes no overt liver injury with VC inhalation alone. However, the combination of VC and HFD significantly enhances liver disease. A technical advantage of this co-exposure model is the whole-body exposure, without restraint. Moreover, the conditions more closely resemble a very common human situation of a combined exposure to VC with underlying nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and therefore support the novel hypothesis that VC is an environmental risk factor for the development of liver damage as a complication of obesity (i.e., NAFLD). This work challenges the paradigm that the current exposure limits of VC (occupational and environmental) are safe. The use of this model can shed new light and concern on the risks of VC exposure. This model of toxicant-induced liver injury can be used for other volatile organic compounds and to study other interactions that may impact the liver and other organ systems.