Accumulating evidence suggests perinatal toxic exposures to environmental contaminants, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), are contributing to the significant increase in obesity and diabetes. We previously demonstrated that maternal exercise during pregnancy improved offspring glucose homeostasis. The purpose of this study was to investigate glucose tolerance and body composition in offspring born to exercised dams exposed to PCB126 during the perinatal period. We hypothesized that maternal exercise would protect offspring against the long-term detrimental effects of perinatal PCB exposure.


Sixty multiparous female ICR mice were equally divided into four experimental groups: Sedentary/Vehicle, Sedentary/PCB, Exercise/Vehicle, and Exercise/PCB. Dams in the exercise groups had voluntary access to a running wheel in the cage prior to and during mating, pregnancy, and nursing. Dams were exposed to 0.5 micromole/kg of PCB126 or vehicle via oral gavage during the perinatal period. Weaning occurred at postnatal day 21. Male offspring body weight was recorded weekly, while body composition and glucose tolerance were measured at one, three, and six months of age.


The perinatal PCB treatment caused a significant increase in fat deposition in adult male offspring born to sedentary dams (p < 0.05), and maternal exercise was able to attenuate the increased fat mass in the PCB-treated group (p < 0.05). The perinatal PCB exposure caused a significant impairment in glucose disposal compared to those offspring of vehicle-exposed animals (p < 0.05). Importantly, maternal exercise improved glucose disposal in the PCB-treated offspring (p < 0.05).


These data suggest that short-term maternal exercise could be an effective intervention against toxic exposures that occur during fetal and early postnatal development. This work was supported by the NIEHS (P42ES007380). The content is the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of NIH.