Acrylamide is known to produce follicular cell tumors of the thyroid in rats. RccHan Wistar rats were exposed
to a carcinogenic dose of acrylamide (3 mg/Kg bw/day) from gestation day 6 to delivery and then through their drinking water to postnatal day 35. In order to identify potential mechanisms of carcinogenesis in the thyroid glands, we used a transcriptomics approach. Thyroid glands were collected from male pups at 10 PM and female pups at 10 AM or 10 PM in order to establish whether active exposure to acrylamide influenced gene expression patterns or pathways that could be related to carcinogenesis. While all animals exposed to acrylamide showed changes in expected target pathways related to carcinogenesis such as DNA repair, DNA replication, chromosome segregation, among others; animals that were sacrificed while actively drinking acrylamide-laced water during their active period at night showed increased changes in pathways related to oxidative stress, detoxification pathways, metabolism, and activation of checkpoint pathways, among others. In addition, thyroid hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), were increased in acrylamide-treated rats sampled at night, but not in quiescent animals when compared to controls. The data clearly indicate that time of day for sample collection is critical to identifying molecular pathways that are altered by the exposures. These results suggest that carcinogenesis in the thyroids of acrylamide treated rats may ensue from several different mechanisms such as hormonal changes and oxidative stress and not only from direct genotoxicity, as has been assumed to date.