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Ethylene glycol (CAS RN 107-21-1) can cause kidney toxicity via the formation of calcium oxalate crystals in a variety of species, including humans. Numerous repeated dose studies conducted in rats have indicated that male rats are more susceptible than female rats. Furthermore, subchronic and chronic studies using different dietary exposure regimens have indicated that male Wistar rats may be more sensitive to renal toxicity than male Fischer-344 (F-344) rats. This study was conducted to compare the toxicity of ethylene glycol in the two strains of rats under identical exposure conditions and to evaluate the potential contribution of toxicokinetic differences to strain sensitivity. Ethylene glycol was mixed in the diet at concentrations to deliver constant target dosage levels of 0, 50, 150, 500, or 1000 mg/kg/day for 16 weeks to groups of 10 male Wistar and 10 male F-344 rats based on weekly group mean body weights and feed consumption. Kidneys were examined histologically for calcium oxalate crystals and pathology. Samples of blood, urine, and kidneys from satellite animals exposed to 0, 150, 500, or 1000 mg/kg/day for 1 or 16 weeks were analyzed for ethylene glycol, glycolic acid, and oxalic acid. Treatment of Wistar rats at 1000 mg/kg/day resulted in the death of two rats; in addition, at 500 and 1000 mg/kg/day, group mean body weights were decreased compared to control throughout the 16 weeks. In F-344 rats exposed at 1000 mg/kg/day and in Wistar rats receiving 500 and 1000 mg/kg/day, there were lower urine specific gravities, higher urine volumes, and increased absolute and relative kidney weights. In both strains of rats treated at 500 and 1000 mg/kg/day, some or all treated animals had increased calcium oxalate crystals in the kidney tubules and crystal nephropathy. The effect was more severe in Wistar rats than in F-344 rats. Accumulation of oxalic acid in the kidneys of both strains of rats was consistent with the dose-dependent and strain-dependent toxicity. As the nephrotoxicity progressed over the 16 weeks, the clearance of ethylene glycol and its metabolites decreased, exacerbating the toxicity. Benchmark dose analysis indicated a BMDL05 for kidney toxicity in Wistar rats of 71.5 mg/kg/day; nearly fourfold lower than in F-344 rats (285 mg/kg/day). This study confirms that the Wistar rat is more sensitive to ethylene glycol-induced renal toxicity than the F-344 rat and indicates that metabolism or clearance plays a role in the strain differences.


George Cruzan, Richard A Corley, Gordon C Hard, Jos J W M Mertens, Kenneth E McMartin, William M Snellings, Ralph Gingell, James A Deyo. Subchronic toxicity of ethylene glycol in Wistar and F-344 rats related to metabolism and clearance of metabolites. Toxicological sciences : an official journal of the Society of Toxicology. 2004 Oct;81(2):502-11

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PMID: 15229367

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