The Association Between Thyroid Injury and Apoptosis, and Alterations of Bax, Bcl-2, and Caspase-3 mRNA/Protein Expression Induced by Nickel Sulfate in Wistar Rats

  • Yahong Liu
  • Hui ChenEmail author
  • Li Zhang
  • Tao Zhang
  • Xuan Ren


To study the toxicity induced by Nickel sulfate (NiSO4) on thyroid tissue, and investigate the role of apoptosis as the possible mechanism, thirty-two male Wistar rats were randomly divided into control group (normal saline, ip), low dose group (2.5 mg/kg day NiSO4, ip), middle dose group (5 mg/kg day NiSO4, ip), high dose group (10 mg/kg day NiSO4, ip). After 40 consecutive days of treatment, there were obvious pathological changes in the thyroids of high dose group. Free T4 (FT4) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) were significantly lower in the NiSO4-treated groups than those in the control group (F = 4.992, p = 0.016; F = 4.524, p = 0.012). The mRNA expression of Caspase-3 was significantly higher (F = 10.259, p = 0.014) in all NiSO4-treated groups, and the mRNA expression of Bcl-2 was significantly lower (F = 9.225, p = 0.018) only in the high dose group. Both control group and the NiSO4-treated groups showed no changes in the mRNA expression of Bax gene. The ratio of Bcl-2/Bax decreased with the increase in exposure dose of NiSO4 (F = 13.382, p = 0.015). The mRNA expression of Fas went up in high dose group (F = 66.632, p < 0.001). The Caspase-3, Fas, and the Bax protein expressions measured by immunohistochemistry were consistent with the mRNA expression. The expression of Bcl-2 protein was significantly lower in the test groups than in the control group (F = 3.873, p = 0.025). NiSO4 as an Endocrine Disrupting Chemical may induce the thyroid injury through apoptosis and lead to hypothyroidism. Also, apoptosis in thyroid tissues was closely related to the alternations of Caspase-3, Bcl-2, and Fas mRNA and protein expression.


Thyroid injury Nickel sulfate Thyroid hormone mRNA expression Apoptosis protein 



The authors thank all those who participated in this study.

Funding information

This study was supported by the Program for National Natural Science Foundation of China (31670518).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Our experiments involving the use of rats and all experimental procedures involving animals were approved by The Second Hospital of Lanzhou University Animal Care and Use Committee.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yahong Liu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hui Chen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Li Zhang
    • 1
  • Tao Zhang
    • 1
  • Xuan Ren
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EndocrineThe Second Hospital of Lanzhou UniversityLanzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Department of PediatricsThe Second Hospital of Lanzhou UniversityLanzhouPeople’s Republic of China

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