Nav: Home

How toxic environmental chemical DBT affects the immune system

October 27, 2008

An international team of researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the University of Basel in Switzerland have issued a report on the mechanism of toxicity of a chemical compound called Dibutyltin (DBT). Their findings will be published by PLoS ONE on October 28.

DBT is part of a class of high toxic and widely distributed chemical compounds called organotins, DBT is most commonly used as an anti-fouling agent in paint, for example in the fishing and shipbuilding industries. It is also used in the production of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic tubes and bottles.

According to co-lead investigators Michael E. Baker, Ph.D., researcher in UC San Diego's Department of Medicine, Division of Nephrology-Hypertension, and Alex Odermatt, Ph.D., at the University of Basel, DBT is closely related to tributyltin (TBT), another well-known pollutant. Concern about the side effects of TBT led the United Nations' International Maritime Organization to organize a global ban on its use.

"TBT is metabolized by the body's liver into DBT," the scientists explained. "Humans are also exposed to DBT by drinking water from PVC pipes. Because it is poorly broken down, DBT remains in the environment and it appears that its toxic effects are more rapid and more pronounced than those of TBT."

Symptoms of organotin exposure can include irritated skin, dizziness, difficulty breathing, and flu-like symptoms. Although long-terms effects in humans are uncertain, large doses of certain organotins have been shown to damage the reproductive and central nervous systems, bone structure, the liver and immune system in mammals.

Combining studies of the effect in cell culture of DBT on the function of a key class of steroid hormone, glucocorticoids, with computer-based analyses of the molecular interaction of DBT and the glucocorticoid receptor (GR), the U.S. and Swiss scientists explained the mechanism by which DBT inhibits transcriptional activity of the GR.

The GR is expressed in almost every cell in the body. Besides important functions in energy metabolism, the GR helps to regulate genes that control the body's immune system. The researchers propose that by blocking GR activation, DBT disrupts the appropriate response of the immune system during inflammation, providing an explanation for some of the toxic effects of this organotin.
-end-
Alex Odermatt is from the Division of Molecular and Systems Toxicology, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Basel. Additional contributors to the paper include first author Christel Gumy of the University of Basel and the Universitiy of Berne; Anna A. Dzyakanchuk and Denise V. Kratschmar, University of Basel; and Charlie Chandsawangbhuwana, UC San Diego Department of Bioengineering. The work was supported in part by grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Media contact: Debra Kain, ddkain@ucsd.edu, 619-543-6163

University of California - San Diego

Related Immune System Articles:

Immune system upgrade
Theoretically, our immune system could detect and kill cancer cells.
Using the immune system as a defence against cancer
Research published today in the British Journal of Cancer has found that a naturally occurring molecule and a component of the immune system that can successfully target and kill cancer cells, can also encourage immunity against cancer resurgence.
First impressions go a long way in the immune system
An algorithm that predicts the immune response to a pathogen could lead to early diagnosis for such diseases as tuberculosis
Filming how our immune system kill bacteria
To kill bacteria in the blood, our immune system relies on nanomachines that can open deadly holes in their targets.
Putting the break on our immune system's response
Researchers have discovered how a tiny molecule known as miR-132 acts as a 'handbrake' on our immune system -- helping us fight infection.
Decoding the human immune system
For the first time ever, researchers are comprehensively sequencing the human immune system, which is billions of times larger than the human genome.
Masterswitch discovered in body's immune system
Scientists have discovered a critical part of the body's immune system with potentially major implications for the treatment of some of the most devastating diseases affecting humans.
How a fungus can cripple the immune system
An international research team led by Professor Oliver Werz of Friedrich Schiller University, Jena, has now discovered how the fungus knocks out the immune defenses, enabling a potentially fatal fungal infection to develop.
How the immune system protects us against bowel cancer
Researchers from Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin have discovered a protective mechanism which is used by the body to protect intestinal stem cells from turning cancerous.
How herpesviruses shape the immune system
DZIF scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum München have developed an analytic method that can very precisely detect viral infections using immune responses.
More Immune System News and Immune System Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

In & Out Of Love
We think of love as a mysterious, unknowable force. Something that happens to us. But what if we could control it? This hour, TED speakers on whether we can decide to fall in — and out of — love. Guests include writer Mandy Len Catron, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, musician Dessa, One Love CEO Katie Hood, and psychologist Guy Winch.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#543 Give a Nerd a Gift
Yup, you guessed it... it's Science for the People's annual holiday episode that helps you figure out what sciency books and gifts to get that special nerd on your list. Or maybe you're looking to build up your reading list for the holiday break and a geeky Christmas sweater to wear to an upcoming party. Returning are pop-science power-readers John Dupuis and Joanne Manaster to dish on the best science books they read this past year. And Rachelle Saunders and Bethany Brookshire squee in delight over some truly delightful science-themed non-book objects for those whose bookshelves are already full. Since...
Now Playing: Radiolab

An Announcement from Radiolab