Transcriptome-metabolome-wide association study (TMWAS) in rats revealed a potential carcinogenic effect of DEHP in thyroid associated with eicosanoids

Jae Kwan Kim, Jian Zhang, Seungwoo Hwang, Seongha Cho, Wook Joon Yu, Ji Seong Jeong, Il Hyun Park, Byung Chul Lee, Sun Ha Jee, Kyung Min Lim, Youngja H. Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The incidence of thyroid cancer (TC) has increased considerably in the last few decades. Environmental factors, including plasticizers, are recognized as potential risks leading to thyroid cancer in humans. In this study, we used a transcriptome-metabolome-wide association study to find the unidentified carcinogenic mechanism of di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) in thyroid and biomarkers for non-invasive diagnosis. Rats were treated with different doses of DEHP (0, 0.3, 3, 30, 150 mg DEHP/kg bw/day) for 13 weeks. Then, the thyroids were processed for Ki67 staining and RNA-seq. Also, 17-h urine samples were collected for high-resolution metabolomics analysis. After a high dose of DEHP exposure, the terminal body weights and the thyroid and parathyroid glands weights were not altered. However, the liver weights and numbers of Ki67-positive cells were increased. Further, multivariate statistical analysis revealed that metabolic shifts were considerably altered above 30 mg DEHP/kg bw/day. In RNA-seq analysis, some cancer-related genes were altered, including 18 upregulated and 9 downregulated transcripts. These cancer transcripts and whole metabolome data were integrated to uncover thyroid cancer-related metabolic pathways, which revealed that cancer-related transcripts had a network structure linked to eicosanoids such as leukotriene D4 and prostaglandin. In brief, our study demonstrated that DEHP can induce thyroid hyperplasia through the eicosanoid-associated pathway, providing further insight into the mechanism of DEHP-associated thyroid cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113805
JournalEnvironmental Research
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • Di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate
  • Eicosanoids
  • Metabolomics
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Transcriptomics


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