Mono(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate induces transcriptomic changes in placental cells based on concentration, fetal sex, and trophoblast cell type

Samantha Lapehn, Scott Houghtaling, Kylia Ahuna, Leena Kadam, James W. MacDonald, Theo K. Bammler, Kaja Z. LeWinn, Leslie Myatt, Sheela Sathyanarayana, Alison G. Paquette

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Phthalates are ubiquitous plasticizer chemicals found in consumer products. Exposure to phthalates during pregnancy has been associated with adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes and differences in placental gene expression in human studies. The objective of this research was to evaluate global changes in placental gene expression via RNA sequencing in two placental cell models following exposure to the phthalate metabolite mono(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (MEHP). HTR-8/SVneo and primary syncytiotrophoblast cells were exposed to three concentrations (1, 90, 180 µM) of MEHP for 24 h with DMSO (0.1%) as a vehicle control. mRNA and lncRNAs were quantified using paired-end RNA sequencing, followed by identification of differentially expressed genes (DEGs), significant KEGG pathways, and enriched transcription factors (TFs). MEHP caused gene expression changes across all concentrations for HTR-8/SVneo and primary syncytiotrophoblast cells. Sex-stratified analysis of primary cells identified different patterns of sensitivity in response to MEHP dose by sex, with male placentas being more responsive to MEHP exposure. Pathway analysis identified 11 KEGG pathways significantly associated with at least one concentration in both cell types. Four ligand-inducible nuclear hormone TFs (PPARG, PPARD, ESR1, AR) were enriched in at least three treatment groups. Overall, we demonstrated that MEHP differentially affects placental gene expression based on concentration, fetal sex, and trophoblast cell type. This study confirms prior studies, as enrichment of nuclear hormone receptor TFs were concordant with previously published mechanisms of phthalate disruption, and generates new hypotheses, as we identified many pathways and genes not previously linked to phthalate exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)831-847
Number of pages17
JournalArchives of Toxicology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • MEHP
  • Phthalates
  • Placenta
  • Transcription factor
  • Transcriptome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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