Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology

, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 0338–0344

Thyroid Hormone Suppression and Cell-Mediated Immunomodulation in American Kestrels (Falco sparverius) Exposed to PCBs


  • J. E. Smits
    • Toxicology Centre and Veterinary Pathology, University of Saskatchewan, 44 Campus Drive, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7N 5B3, Canada
  • K. J. Fernie
    • Environment Canada, 867 Lakeshore Road, Burlington, Ontario L7R 4A6, Canada
  • G. R. Bortolotti
    • Department of Biology, University of Saskatchewan, 112 Science Place, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7N 5E2, Canada
  • T. A. Marchant
    • Department of Biology, University of Saskatchewan, 112 Science Place, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7N 5E2, Canada

DOI: 10.1007/s00244-002-1200-9

Cite this article as:
Smits, J., Fernie, K., Bortolotti, G. et al. Arch. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. (2002) 43: 0338. doi:10.1007/s00244-002-1200-9


Exposure to environmental contaminants can induce physiological changes in animals through various mechanisms. One manifestation of subclinical toxicity from polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) exposure is the disruption of normal immune function described in numerous species, including American kestrels (Falco sparverius). In 1998, 152 mature male and female kestrels were fed either a mixture of Aroclor 1248:1254:1260 (approximately 7 mg/kg kestrel/day) through their food items, or control diets. Offspring produced by 50 breeding pairs (thus, half received in ovo PCB exposure only) were also studied. Total and differential white blood cell counts, the phytohemagglutinin (PHA) skin response, as well as thyroid hormone levels were tested in vivo in nonbreeding adults (1998 only) and nestlings (1998 and 1999). In 1999, nestlings came from three parental groups; adults exposed in 1998, birds produced by PCB-exposed parents, and unexposed birds. In 1998, directly exposed males but not females had increased total white blood cell counts driven by lymphocytosis, plus a decreased heterophil-to-lymphocyte ratio relative to controls. PCB-exposed birds had a significantly greater response to PHA than did controls, with sex as a significant factor and plasma triiodothyonine (T3) as a significant covariate. Levels of T3 were significantly depressed in PCB-exposed birds of both sexes. The 1999 nestlings (F1 generation with respect to PCB exposure) did not show any effect of parental treatment group on the PHA skin response, yet T3 remained as a significant covariate. Immunological effects are discussed in light of the antibody-mediated immunotoxicity found in the same birds and reported previously.

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© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 2002