Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are flame retardants used worldwide in a variety of commercial goods, and are now widely found in both environmental and biological samples. BDE-47 is one of the most pervasive of these PBDE congeners and therefore is of particular concern. In this study C57BL/6J mice were exposed perinatally to 0.03, 0.1 or 1 mg/kg/day of BDE-47, a dose range chosen to encompass human exposure levels. Tissue levels of BDE-47 were measured in the blood, brain, fat and milk of dams and in whole fetal homogenate and blood and brain of pups on gestational day (GD) 15, and postnatal days (PND) 1, 10 and 21. From GD 15 to PND 1 levels of BDE-47 increased within dam tissue and then decreased from PND 1 to 21. Over the period of lactation levels in dam milk were comparatively high when compared to both brain and blood for all dose groups. Measurable levels of BDE-47 were found in the fetus on GD 15 confirming gestational exposure. From PND 1 to 21, levels of BDE-47 in pup tissue increased over the period of lactation due to the transfer of BDE-47 through milk. Behavioral tests of fine motor function and learning and memory were carried out between postnatal weeks 5–17 in order to evaluate the neurobehavioral toxicity of BDE-47. Behavioral deficits were only seen in the Barnes spatial maze where mice in the three exposure groups had longer latencies and traveled longer distances to find the escape hole when compared to vehicle control mice. These results support the conclusions that perinatal exposure to BDE-47 can have neurodevelopmental consequences, and that lactational exposure represents a significant exposure risk during development.
Flame retardant; BDE-47; Polybrominated Diphenyl Ether; Neurotoxicity; Neurodevelopment; Behavior; Bioaccumulation; GC/MS
Mercury (Hg) is neurotoxic, and children may be particularly susceptible to this effect. A current major challenge is the identification of children who may be uniquely susceptible to Hg toxicity because of genetic disposition. We examined the hypothesis that CPOX4, a genetic variant of the heme pathway enzyme coproporphyrinogen oxidase (CPOX) that affects susceptibility to mercury toxicity in adults, also modifies the neurotoxic effects of Hg in children. Five hundred seven children, 8–12 years of age at baseline, participated in a clinical trial to evaluate the neurobehavioral effects of Hg from dental amalgam tooth fillings in children. Subjects were evaluated at baseline and at 7 subsequent annual intervals for neurobehavioral performance and urinary mercury levels. Following the completion of the clinical trial, genotyping assays for CPOX4 allelic status were performed on biological samples provided by 330 of the trial participants. Regression modeling strategies were employed to evaluate associations between CPOX4 status, Hg exposure, and neurobehavioral test outcomes. Among girls, few significant CPOX4-Hg interactions or independent main effects for Hg or CPOX4 were observed. In contrast, among boys, numerous significant interaction effects between CPOX4 and Hg were observed spanning all 5 domains of neurobehavioral performance. All underlying dose-response associations between Hg exposure and test performance were restricted to boys with the CPOX4 variant, and all of these associations were in the expected direction where increased exposure to Hg decreased performance. These findings are the first to demonstrate genetic susceptibility to the adverse neurobehavioral effects of Hg exposure in children. The paucity of responses among same-age girls with comparable Hg exposure provides evidence of sexual dimorphism in genetic susceptibility to the adverse neurobehavioral effects of Hg in children and adolescents.
mercury; behavior; neurotoxicity; genetic polymorphism; CPOX4; children
Prenatal coexposures to glucocorticoids and organophosphate pesticides are widespread. Glucocorticoids are elevated by maternal stress and are commonly given in preterm labor; organophosphate exposures are virtually ubiquitous. We used PC12 cells undergoing neurodifferentiation in order to assess whether dexamethasone enhances the developmental neurotoxicity of chlorpyrifos, focusing on concentrations relevant to human exposures. By themselves, each agent reduced the number of cells and the combined exposure elicited a correspondingly greater effect than with either agent alone. There was no general cytotoxicity, as cell growth was actually enhanced, and again, the combined treatment evoked greater cellular hypertrophy than with the individual compounds. The effects on neurodifferentiation were more complex. Chlorpyrifos alone had a promotional effect on neuri to genesis whereas dexamethasone impaired it; combined treatment showed an overall impairment greater than that seen with dexamethasone alone. The effect of chlorpyrifos on differentiation into specific neurotransmitter phenotypes was shifted by dexamethasone. Either agent alone promoted differentiation into the dopaminergic phenotype at the expense of the cholinergic phenotype. However, in dexamethasone-primed cells, chlorpyrifos actually enhanced cholinergic neurodifferentiation instead of suppressing this phenotype. Our results indicate that developmental exposure to glucocorticoids, either in the context of stress or the therapy of preterm labor, could enhance the developmental neurotoxicity of organophosphates and potentially of other neurotoxicants, as well as producing neurobehavioral outcomes distinct from those seen with either individual agent.
Chlorpyrifos; Dexamethasone; Glucocorticoids; Organophosphate pesticides; PC12 cells; Preterm delivery
Mechanistically unrelated developmental neurotoxicants often produce neural cell loss culminating in similar functional and behavioral outcomes. We compared an organophosphate pesticide (diazinon), an organochlorine pesticide (dieldrin) and a metal (Ni2+) for effects on the genes regulating cell cycle and apoptosis in differentiating PC12 cells, an in vitro model of neuronal development. Each agent was introduced at 30 μM for 24 or 72 hr, treatments devoid of cytotoxicity. Using microarrays, we examined the mRNAs encoding nearly 400 genes involved in each of the biological processes. All three agents targeted both the cell cycle and apoptosis pathways, evidenced by significant transcriptional changes in 40–45% of the cell cycle-related genes and 30–40% of the apoptosis-related genes. There was also a high degree of overlap as to which specific genes were affected by the diverse agents, with 80 cell cycle genes and 56 apoptosis genes common to all three. Concordance analysis, which assesses stringent matching of the direction, magnitude and timing of the transcriptional changes, showed highly significant correlations for pairwise comparisons of all the agents, for both cell cycle and apoptosis. Our results show that otherwise disparate developmental neurotoxicants converge on common cellular pathways governing the acquisition and programmed death of neural cells, providing a specific link to cell deficits. Our studies suggest that identifying the initial mechanism of action of a developmental neurotoxicant may be strategically less important than focusing on the pathways that converge on common final outcomes such as cell loss.
Apoptosis; Cell cycle; Diazinon; Dieldrin; Nickel; PC12 cells
Enhanced oxidative stress or deficient oxidative stress response in the brain is associated with neurodegenerative disorders and behavioral abnormalities. Previously we generated a knockout mouse line lacking the gene encoding γ-glutamylcysteine ligase modifier subunit (GCLM). Gclm(−/−) knockout (KO) mice are viable and fertile, yet exhibit only 9–35% of wild-type levels of reduced glutathione (GSH) in tissues, making them a useful model for chronic GSH depletion. Having the global absence of this gene, KO mice—from the time of conception and throughout postnatal life—experience chronic oxidative stress in all tissues, including brain. Between postnatal day (P) 60 and P100, we carried out behavioral phenotyping tests in adults, comparing male and female Gclm(−/−) with Gclm(+/+) wild-type (WT) littermates. Compared with WT, KO mice exhibited: subnormal anxiety in the elevated zero maze; normal overall exploratory open-field activity, but slightly more activity in the peripheral zones; normal acoustic startle and prepulse inhibition reactions; normal novel object recognition with increased time attending to the stimulus objects; slightly reduced latencies to reach a random marked platform in the Morris water maze; normal spatial learning and memory in multiple phases of the Morris water maze; and significantly greater hyperactivity in response to methamphetamine in the open field. These findings are in general agreement with two prior studies on these mice and suggest that the brain is remarkably resilient to lowered GSH levels, implying significant reserve capacity to regulate reactivity oxygen species—but with regional differences such that anxiety and stimulated locomotor control brain regions might be more vulnerable.
acoustic startle response; elevated zero maze; GSH; reduced glutathione; locomotor activity; Morris water maze; novel object recognition
The objective of the present study was to examine the influence of prenatal drug exposure (PDE) on memory performance and supporting brain structures (i.e., hippocampus) during adolescence. To achieve this goal, declarative memory ability and hippocampal volume were examined in a well-characterized sample of 138 adolescents (76 with a history of PDE and 62 from a non-exposed comparison group recruited from the same community, mean age = 14 years). Analyses adjusted for: age at time of the assessments, gender, IQ, prenatal exposure to alcohol and tobacco, and indices of early childhood environment (i.e., caregiver depression, potential for child abuse, and number of caregiver changes through 7 years of age). Results revealed adolescents with a history of PDE performed worse on the California Verbal Learning Test – Child Version (CVLT-C), worse on story recall from the Children’s Memory Scale (CMS), and had larger hippocampal volumes, even after covariate adjustment. Hippocampal volume was negatively correlated with memory performance on the CVLT-C, with lower memory scores associated with larger volumes. These findings provide support for long-term effects of PDE on memory function and point to neural mechanisms that may underlie these outcomes.
Prenatal drug exposure; Memory; Hippocampus; Development; Adolescent brain
To determine the possible neurotoxic impact of prenatal exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), we analyzed banked cord blood from a Faroese birth cohort for PCBs. The subjects were born in 1986–1987, and 917 cohort members had completed a series of neuropsychological tests at age 7 years. Major PCB congeners (118, 138, 153, and 180), the calculated total PCB concentration, and the PCB exposure estimated in a structural equation model showed weak associations with test deficits, with statistically significant negative associations only with the Boston Naming test. Likewise, neither hexachlorobenzene nor p,p'-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene showed clear links to neurobehavioral deficits. Thus, these associations were much weaker than those associated with the cord-blood mercury concentration, and adjustment for mercury substantially attenuated the regression coefficients for PCB exposure. When the outcomes were joined into motor and verbally mediated functions in a structural equation model, the PCB effects remained weak and virtually disappeared after adjustment for methylmercury exposure, while mercury remained statistically significant. Thus, in the presence of elevated methylmercury exposure, PCB neurotoxicity may be difficult to detect, and PCB exposure does not explain the methylmercury neurotoxicity previously reported in this cohort.
Methylmercury compounds; Neuropsychological tests; Polychlorinated biphenyls; Prenatal exposure delayed effects; Preschool child
Neurobehavioral disorders such as anxiety, autism, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders are typically influenced by genetic and environmental factors. Although several genetic risk factors have been identified in recent years, little is known about the environmental factors that either cause neurobehavioral disorders or contribute to their progression in genetically predisposed individuals. One environmental factor that has raised concerns is chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate pesticide that is widely used in agriculture and is found ubiquitously in the environment. In the present study, we examined the effects of sub-chronic chlorpyrifos exposure on anxiety-related behavior during development using zebrafish larvae. We found that sub-chronic exposure to 0.01 or 0.1 μM chlorpyrifos during development induces specific behavioral defects in 7-day-old zebrafish larvae. The larvae displayed decreases in swim speed and thigmotaxis, yet no changes in avoidance behavior were seen. Exposure to 0.001 μM chlorpyrifos did not affect swimming, thigmotaxis, or avoidance behavior and exposure to 1 μM chlorpyrifos induced behavioral defects, but also induced defects in larval morphology. Since thigmotaxis, a preference for the edge, is an anxiety-related behavior in zebrafish larvae, we propose that sub-chronic chlorpyrifos exposure interferes with the development of anxiety-related behaviors. The results of this study provide a good starting point for examination of the molecular, cellular, developmental, and neural mechanisms that are affected by environmentally relevant concentrations of organophosphate pesticides. A more detailed understanding of these mechanisms is important for the development of predictive models and refined health policies to prevent toxicant-induced neurobehavioral disorders.
Organophosphates; Zebrafish; High-throughput assay; Anxiety behavior; Development
Methylmercury (MeHg) is an environmental neurotoxicant that targets the developing nervous system. In an effort to understand mechanisms of MeHg toxicity we have identified candidate genes that confer tolerance to MeHg using a Drosophila model. Whole genome transcript profiling of developing larval brains of MeHg-tolerant and non-tolerant flies has identified Turandot A (TotA) as a potential MeHg tolerance gene. TotA is a secreted humoral stress response factor in Drosophila that is a direct target of conserved innate immunity signaling pathways. Here we characterize TotA expression in newly generated isogenic lines (isolines) of flies derived from our previously established MeHg-tolerant and non-tolerant populations. TotA mRNA transcript and protein expression is seen to be higher in the tolerant isolines than the non-tolerant lines. Elevated TotA expression in the tolerant lines was seen to span all the larval developmental stages pointing toward a difference in the TotA gene regulation between the MeHg tolerant and non-tolerant strains. We show that TotA is most highly expressed in the fat body (liver equivalent) and is selectively upregulated in the fat body of tolerant flies relative to brain and gut tissues. Fat body-specific transgenic expression of TotA invokes MeHg tolerance as seen by enhanced development of flies reared on MeHg food. In addition, cell based assays show that high TotA expressing C6 cells are more tolerant to MeHg than the low TotA expressing S2 cells. Knockdown of TotA in the C6 cells trends toward a reduction in MeHg tolerance. Identification of TotA as a MeHg tolerance gene suggests a role for conserved cytokine/immune signaling pathways in modulating MeHg toxicity.
Methylmercury; Turandot A; Neurotoxicity; Mercury resistance; Innate immunity; Drosophila
Preclinical and other research suggest that youth with prenatal cocaine exposure (PCE) may be at high risk for cocaine use due to both altered brain development and exposure to unhealthy environments.
Participants are early adolescents who were prospectively enrolled in a longitudinal study of PCE prior to or at birth. Hair samples were collected from the youth at ages 10½ and 12½ (N=263). Samples were analyzed for cocaine and its metabolites using ELISA screening with gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy (GC/MS) confirmation of positive samples. Statistical analyses included comparisons between the hair-positive and hair-negative groups on risk and protective factors chosen a priori as well as hierarchical logistical regression analyses to predict membership in the hair-positive group.
Hair samples were positive for cocaine use for 14% (n=36) of the tested cohort. Exactly half of the hair-positive preteens had a history of PCE. Group comparisons revealed that hair-negative youth had significantly higher IQ scores at age 10½; the hair-positive youth had greater availability of cigarettes, alcohol, and other drugs in the home; caregivers with more alcohol problems and depressive symptoms; less nurturing home environments; and less positive attachment to their primary caregivers and peers. The caregivers of the hair-positive preteens reported that the youth displayed more externalizing and social problems, and the hair-positive youth endorsed more experimentation with cigarettes, alcohol, and/or other drugs. Mental health problems, peer drug use, exposure to violence, and neighborhood characteristics did not differ between the groups. Regression analyses showed that the availability of drugs in the home had the greatest predictive value for hair-positive group membership while higher IQ, more nurturing home environments, and positive attachment to caregivers or peers exerted some protective effect.
The results do not support a direct relationship between PCE and early adolescent experimentation with cocaine. Proximal risk and protective factors—those associated with the home environment and preteens' caregivers—were more closely related to early cocaine use than more distal factors such as neighborhood characteristics. Consistent with theories of adolescent problem behavior, the data demonstrate the complexity of predicting pre-adolescent drug use and identify a number of individual and contextual factors that could serve as important foci for intervention.
Prenatal cocaine exposure; Early adolescents; Hair; Drug testing; Substance abuse
While the toxic effects of lead have been recognized for millennia, it has remained a significant public health concern due to its continued use and toxicological potential. Of particular interest is the increased susceptibility of young children to the toxic effects of lead. Although the exact mechanism(s) for lead toxicity is currently not well understood, research has established that it can be a potent NMDA antagonist. Previous research has established that exposure to NMDA antagonists during the brain growth spurt period (first 2 weeks of life in mice) can produce apoptotic neurodegeneration throughout the brain. Based on this information, the ability of lead exposure (2 injections of 350 mg/kg lead 4 h apart) to produce apoptosis in the neonatal mouse brain was assessed histologically 8–24 h after treatment using activated caspase-3 immunohistochemistry, De Olmos silver technique, Nissl staining, and electron microscopy. Lead exposure produced significant neurodegeneration in the caudate/putamen, hippocampus, subiculum, and superficial and deep cortical layers of the frontal cortical regions. Further ultrastructural examination revealed cellular profiles consistent with apoptotic cell death. Statistical results showed that lead exposure significantly increased apoptotic neurodegeneration above that seen in normal controls in animals treated at postnatal day 7, but not on day 14. The results of this study may provide a basis for further elucidation of mechanisms through which the immature nervous system may be particularly susceptible to lead exposure.
lead; NMDA antagonist; apoptosis; neurodevelopment; neurotoxicity
3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) or “Ecstasy” is one of the most widely used illicit recreational drugs among young adults. MDMA is an indirect monoaminergic agonist and reuptake inhibitor that primarily affects the serotonin system. Preclinical studies in animals have found prenatal exposure related to neonatal tremors and long-term learning and memory impairments. To date, there are no prospective studies of the sequelae of prenatal exposure to MDMA in humans, despite concerns about its potential for harmful effects to the fetus. The present study is the first to prospectively identify MDMA-using women during pregnancy and to document patterns and correlates of use with neonatal and early infancy outcomes of offspring.
All mothers and infants were prospectively recruited through the Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) and University of East London (UEL) Drugs and Infancy Study (DAISY) that focused on recreational drug use in pregnant women. Women were interviewed about substance use prior to and during pregnancy and infants were seen at 1 and 4 months using standardized, normative assessments of neonatal behavior, and cognitive and motor development, including the NICU Network Neurobehavioral Scale (NNNS), the Bayley Mental and Motor Development Scales (MDI, PDI), and the Alberta Infant Motor Scales (AIMS). The sample was primarily middle class with some university education and in stable partner relationships. The majority of women recruited had taken a number of illicit drugs prior to or during pregnancy. Group differences between those polydrug using women who had specifically used MDMA during pregnancy (n = 28) and those who had not (n = 68) were assessed using chi-square and t-tests. MDMA and other drug effects were assessed through multiple regression analyses controlling for confounding variables.
Women who used MDMA during pregnancy had fewer prior births and more negative sequelae associated with their drug use, including more health, work, and social problems. MDMA exposed infants differed in sex ratio (more male births) and had poorer motor quality and lower milestone attainment at 4 months, with a dose-response relationship to amount of MDMA exposure. These findings suggest risk to the developing infant related to MDMA exposure and warrant continued follow-up to determine whether early motor delays persist or resolve.
Methylenedioxymethamphetamine “MDMA”; “Ecstasy”; infant development; drugs; sex ratio; motor skills; Townes-Brocks
This population-based retrospective cohort study examined adult performance on a battery of neuropsychological tests in relation to prenatal and early postnatal exposure to tetrachloroethylene (PCE)-contaminated drinking water on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Subjects were identified through birth records from 1969 through 1983. Exposure was modeled using pipe network information from town water departments, a PCE leaching and transport algorithm, EPANet water flow modeling software, and a Geographic Information System (GIS). Results of crude and multivariate analyses among 35 exposed and 28 unexposed subjects showed no association between prenatal and early postnatal exposure and decrements on tests that assess abilities in the domains of omnibus intelligence, academic achievement or language. The results were suggestive of an association between prenatal and early postnatal PCE exposure and diminished performance on tests that assessed abilities in the domains of visuospatial functioning, learning and memory, motor, attention and mood. Because the sample size was small, most findings were not statistically significant. Future studies with larger sample sizes should be conducted to further define the neuropsychological consequences of early developmental PCE exposure.
Tetrachloroethylene; PCE; development; neuropsychological assessment
Acute organophosphate (OP) pesticide exposure is associated with adverse central nervous system (CNS) outcomes, however, little is known about the neurotoxicity of chronic exposures that do not result in acute poisoning. To examine associations between long-term pesticide use and CNS function, neurobehavioral (NB) tests were administered to licensed pesticide applicators enrolled in the Agricultural Health Study (AHS) in Iowa and North Carolina. Between 2006 and 2008, 701 male participants completed nine NB tests to assess memory, motor speed and coordination, sustained attention, verbal learning and visual scanning and processing. Data on ever-use and lifetime days of use of 16 OP pesticides were obtained from AHS interviews conducted before testing between 1993 and 2007 and during the NB visit. The mean age of participants was 61 years (SD = 12). Associations between pesticide use and NB test performance were estimated with linear regression controlling for age and outcome-specific covariates. NB test performance was associated with lifetime days of use of some pesticides. Ethoprop was significantly associated with reduced performance on a test of motor speed and visual scanning. Malathion was significantly associated with poor performance on a test of visual scanning and processing. Conversely, we observed significantly better test performance for five OP pesticides. Specifically, chlorpyrifos, coumaphos, parathion, phorate, and tetrachlorvinphos were associated with better verbal learning and memory; coumaphos was associated with better performance on a test of motor speed and visual scanning; and parathion was associated with better performance on a test of sustained attention. Several associations varied by state. Overall, our results do not provide strong evidence that long-term OP pesticide use is associated with adverse CNS-associated NB test performance among this older sample of pesticide applicators. Potential reasons for these mostly null associations include a true absence of effect as well as possible selective participation by healthier applicators.
agricultural workers; epidemiology; organophosphates; neuropsychological testing; pesticide exposure
This study used a rat model of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome to investigate whether combined prenatal and postnatal ethanol exposure affects met-enkephalin levels in the brains of male and female Long–Evans adult rats. Intragastric ethanol was administered to a group of rats (ET) from gestational day (GD) 1 through 22 and from postnatal day (PD) 2 through 10. The control groups consisted of a nontreated control group (NTC) and an intubated control group (IC) that received the intragastric intubation procedure but no exposure to ethanol. We measured met-enkephalin levels in the prefrontal cortex, nucleus accumbens, hypothalamus, central and basolateral nucleus of amygdala and ventral tegmental area. Met-enkephalin levels in the hypothalamus of male and female ET animals were significantly higher than those in either the NTC or IC animals. Met-enkephalin levels in the central nucleus of the amygdala of male and female ET animals were significantly lower than the levels in the NTC animals. Met-enkephalin levels in the nucleus accumbens of ET females were significantly greater than those in the IC females. These results demonstrate that the combination of prenatal and postnatal ethanol exposure affects basal met-enkephalin levels in specific regions in a sex-specific manner. These changes in met-enkephalin levels may explain how early ethanol exposure affects opioid-regulated behaviors such as social play, sexual behavior, and other social behaviors.
Fetal alcohol syndrome; Social behavior; Opioid; Prenatal alcohol; Sex-dependent differences; Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
To assess the effect of prenatal cocaine exposure on mental health symptoms in 9-year old children controlling for potential confounders.
332 children (170 prenatally cocaine-exposed (PCE), 162 non cocaine-exposed (NCE) were assessed using self (Dominic Interactive; DI) and caregiver report (Child Behavior Checklist; CBCL).
Higher levels of PCE were associated with caregiver report of clinically elevated aggressive and delinquent behavior. With each increased unit of PCE, children were 1.3 times more likely to be rated as aggressive (OR=1.30, 95% CI: 1.02–1.67, p<0.04). For each increased unit of PCE, girls were 2 times more likely to be rated as having delinquent behavior (OR=2.08, 95% CI: 1.46–2.96, p<0.0001). PCE status was also associated with increased odds of delinquent behavior (OR=2.41; 95% CI: 1.16–4.97, p=0.02), primarily due to the increased risk among girls with PCE. While girls with PCE status were 7 times more likely than NCE girls to have delinquent behaviors (OR=7.42; 95% CI: 2.03–27.11, p<0.002) boys with PCE did not demonstrate increased risk (OR=0.98; 95% CI: 0.36–2.65, p>0.97). Foster or adoptive parents were more likely to rate their PCE children as having more thought problems, inattention, delinquent behavior, aggression, externalizing and overall problems (p<0.05) than biologic mothers or relative caregivers. Higher 2nd trimester tobacco exposure was associated with increased odds of caregiver reported anxiety (OR=1.73; 95% CI 1.06–2.81, p<0.03) and marijuana exposure increased the odds of thought problems (OR=1.68; 95% CI 1.01–2.79, p<0.05). Children with PCE self-reported fewer symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) compared to NCE children (OR=0.44, 95% CI: 0.21–0.92, p<0.03). Greater tobacco exposure was associated with increased odds of child reported ODD (OR=1.24; 95% CI 1.03–1.78, p<0.03).
Higher PCE was associated with disruptive behaviors including aggression and delinquent behavior among girls by caregiver report, but not child report. These findings highlight the need for early behavioral assessment using multiple informants in multi-risk children.
Prenatal cocaine exposure; Mental health; Child Behavior Checklist; Dominic Interactive; Tobacco; Neurobehavioral teratology
Children prenatally exposed to cocaine may be at increased risk for behavioral problems due to disruptions of monaminergically regulated arousal systems and/or environmental conditions.
To assess behavioral outcomes of cocaine (CE) and non-cocaine exposed (NCE) children, 4 through 10 years old, controlling for other prenatal drug exposures and environmental factors.
Low socioeconomic status (SES), primarily African-American children (n = 381 (193 (CE), 188 (NCE)) were recruited from birth. Generalized Estimating Equation (GEE) analyses were used to assess the predictive relationship of prenatal cocaine exposure to odds of caregiver reported clinically elevated behavioral problems at 4, 6, 9 and 10 years of age, controlling for confounders.
Prenatal cocaine exposure was associated with increased rates of caregiver reported delinquency (OR=1.93, CI: 1.09-3.42, p<.02). A significant prenatal cocaine exposure by sex interaction was found for delinquency indicating that only females were affected (OR=3.57, CI: 1.67-7.60, p<.001). There was no effect of cocaine on increased odds of other CBCL subscales. Higher prenatal tobacco exposure was associated with increased odds of externalizing symptoms at 4, 9 and 10 years of age. For CE children, those in foster or adoptive care were rated as having more behavior problems than those in biologic mother or relative care. Greater caregiver psychological distress was associated with increased behavioral problems. There were no independent effects of elevated blood lead level on increased behavior problems after control for prenatal drug exposure and other environmental conditions.
Prenatal cocaine and tobacco exposure were associated with greater externalizing behavior after control for multiple prenatal drug exposures, other environmental and caregiving factors and lead exposure from 4 through 10 years of age. Greater caregiver psychological distress negatively affected caregiver ratings of all CBCL domains. Since cocaine and tobacco use during pregnancy and maternal psychological distress have the potential to be altered through prenatal educational, drug treatment and and mental health interventions, they warrant attention in efforts to reduce rates of problem behaviors in children.
behavior; delinquency; prenatal cocaine-exposure; lead exposure; longitudinal
Developmental organophosphate exposure reduces the numbers of neural cells, contributing to neurobehavioral deficits. We administered chlorpyrifos or diazinon to newborn rats on postnatal days 1–4, in doses straddling the threshold for barely-detectable cholinesterase, and evaluated gene expression in the cell cycle and apoptosis pathways on postnatal day 5. Both organophosphates evoked transcriptional changes in 20–25% of the genes in each category; chlorpyrifos and diazinon targeted the same genes, with similar magnitudes of change, as evidenced by high concordance. Furthermore, the same effects were obtained with doses above or below the threshold for cholinesterase inhibition, indicating a mechanism unrelated to anticholinesterase actions. We then evaluated the effects of chlorpyrifos in undifferentiated and differentiating PC12 cells and found even greater targeting of cell cycle and apoptosis genes, affecting up to 40% of all genes in the pathways. Notably, the genes affected in undifferentiated cells were not concordant with those in differentiating cells, pointing to dissimilar outcomes dependent on developmental stage. The in vitro model successfully identified 60–70% of the genes affected by chlorpyrifos in vivo, indicating that the effects are exerted directly on developing neural cells. Our results show that organophosphates target the genes regulating the cell cycle and apoptosis in the developing brain and in neuronotypic cells in culture, with the pattern of vulnerability dependent on the specific stage of development. Equally important, these effects do not reflect actions on cholinesterase and operate at exposures below the threshold for any detectable inhibition of this enzyme.
Apoptosis; Cell cycle; Chlorpyrifos; Developmental neurotoxicity; Diazinon; Gene transcription; Microarray; Organophosphate insecticides; PC12 cells
A variety of behavioral instruments are available for assessing important aspects of cognition in both animals and humans and, in many cases, the same instruments can be used in both. While nonhuman primates are phylogenetically closest to humans, rodents, pigeons and other animals also offer behaviors worthy of note. Delay Discounting procedures are as useful as any in studies of impulsivity and may have utility in shedding light on processes associated with drug abuse. Specific memory tests such as Visual Paired Comparisons tasks (similar to the Fagan test of infant intelligence) can be modified to allow for assessment of different aspects of memory such as spatial memory. Use of these and other specific memory tasks can be used to directly monitor aspects of cognitive development in infant animals, particularly in nonhuman primates such as monkeys, and children and to draw inferences with respect to possible neuroanatomical substrates sub-serving their functions. Tasks for assessing working memory such as Variable Delayed Response (VDR), modified VDR and Spatial Working Memory tasks are now known to be affected in Parkinson’s disease (PD). These and other cognitive function tasks are being used in a monkey model of PD to assess the ability of anti-Parkinson’s disease therapies to ameliorate these cognitive deficits without diminishing their therapeutic effects on motor dysfunction. Similarly, in a rat model of the cognitive deficits associated with perinatal exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), clear parallels with children can be seen in at least two areas of executive function: cognitive flexibility and response inhibition. In the rat model, discrimination reversal tasks were utilized to assess cognitive flexibility, a function often assessed in humans using the Wisconsin Card Sorting Task. Response inhibition was assessed using performance in a Differential Reinforcement of Low Response Rates (DRL) task. As the data continue to accumulate, it becomes more clear that our attempts to adapt animal-appropriate tasks for the study of important aspects of human cognition have proven to be very fruitful.
Consumption of arsenic-contaminated drinking water is associated with numerous cancers and dermal and vascular diseases. Arsenic is also a potent nervous system toxicant and epidemiological studies indicate that intellectual functions in children are compromised following early developmental exposure. This study was designed to examine the effects of arsenic on a broad range of age-specific behaviors including basic sensory-motor responses in neonates, locomotor activity and grip strength in juveniles, and operant measures of learning and attention in adults. Pregnant C57BL6/J mice consumed drinking water containing 0, 8, 25, or 80 ppm sodium arsenite from the fourth day of gestation until birth. Arsenic produced a range of behavioral impairments in male and female offspring at each of the test ages. The most striking effects of arsenic were on the development of gait and other motor responses including acoustic startle, righting reflexes, and forelimb grip. These results suggest that developmental arsenic exposure can produce other behavioral impairments in children in addition to cognitive impairment.
arsenic; behavior; C57BL6/J; development; learning; motor; prenatal exposure
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are widely used flame retardants that have become pervasive environmental contaminants and may contribute to adverse health outcomes. We evaluated in mice the developmental neurotoxicity of 2,2′,4,4′-tetrabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-47), one of the most abundant PBDE congeners detected in animal and human tissues. Female C57BL/6J mice were exposed to daily doses of 0, 0.03, 0.1 or 1 mg/kg beginning 4 weeks prior to conception, continuing through gestation and lactation, and ending at weaning on postnatal day (PND) 21. Levels of BDE-47 in blood, brain, liver and adipose tissues of dams were markedly increased after 4 weeks of exposure, around the time of mating, and continued to increase through the time of parturition. Blood levels of BDE-47 in the dosed dams were within the range reported in humans. BDE-47 tissue levels in the dams decreased between parturition and weaning, possibly reflecting mobilization during lactation. Brain BDE-47 levels in the offspring at PND 1 approached those of the dams at parturition. Perinatal exposure to BDE-47 resulted in significant dose dependent growth retardation, slower motor performance in several behavioral tests, and mice exposed to 1 mg/kg/day BDE-47 showed altered performance in the Morris water maze. There were no differences between groups in the numbers of pyramidal neurons in hippocampus CA1. These results document accumulation of BDE-47 in several organ systems following exposure to low-levels of BDE-47, and provide evidence that such exposure is associated with early behavioral deficits in exposed neonates.
Flame retardant; BDE-47; Polybrominated diphenyl ether; Neurotoxicity; Behavior; Hippocampus
Ethanol exposure during development is the leading known cause of mental retardation and can result in characteristic physiological and cognitive deficits, often termed Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). Previous behavioral findings using rat models of FASD have suggested that there are changes in the nucleus accumbens (NAC) and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) following ethanol exposure during development. This study used a rat model of FASD to evaluate dendritic morphology in both the NAC and mPFC and cell number in the NAC. Dendritic morphology in mPFC and NAC were assessed using a modified Golgi stain and analyzed via three dimensional reconstructions with Neurolucida (MBF Bioscience). Cell counts in the NAC (shell and core) were determined using an unbiased stereology procedure (Stereo Investigator (MBF Bioscience)). Perinatal ethanol exposure did not affect neuronal or glial cell population numbers in the NAC. Ethanol exposure produced a sexually dimorphic effect on dendritic branching at one point along the NAC dendrites but was without effect on all other measures of dendritic morphology in the NAC. In contrast, spine density was reduced and distribution was significantly altered in layer II/III neurons of the mPFC following ethanol exposure. Ethanol exposure during development was also associated with an increase in soma size in the mPFC. These findings suggest that previously observed sexually dimorphic changes in activation of the NAC in a rat model of FASD may be due to altered input from the mPFC.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum disorder; prefrontal cortex; nucleus accumbens; ethanol; development; Golgi stain; stereology
The relation between prenatal marijuana exposure (PME) and school achievement was evaluated in a sample of 524 14-year-olds. Women were recruited during pregnancy and assessed, along with their offspring, at multiple phases from infancy to early adulthood. The sample represents a low-income population. Half of the adolescents are male and 55% are African American. School achievement was assessed with the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT) Screener (Psychological Corporation, 1992). A significant negative relation was found between PME and 14-year WIAT composite and reading scores. The deficit in school achievement was mediated by the effects of PME on intelligence test performance at age 6, attention problems and depression symptoms at age 10, and early initiation of marijuana use. These findings suggest that the effects of PME on adolescent achievement are mediated by the earlier negative effects of PME on child characteristics. The negative impact of these characteristics on adolescent achievement may presage later problems in early adulthood.
prenatal marijuana exposure; school achievement; adolescence
The use of extracts that are highly enriched in phytoestrogens, such as genistein, has become popular to promote various aspects of healthy aging, including maintenance of cognitive function. These compounds are promoted to menopausal women as safe, natural alternatives to traditional estrogen therapies, yet their safety and efficacy are poorly understood. Previous research in our lab found that once daily oral treatment of ovariectomized female Long-Evans (LE) rats with the soy phytoestrogen, genistein resulted in subtle deficits in performance on cognitive tasks assessing working memory and response inhibition/timing ability. The present study further modeled exposure of the menopausal woman to genistein by treating 14-month old ovariectomized female LE rats three times daily at a dose of genistein resulting in serum concentrations similar to those that could be achieved in humans consuming either a commercially available soy isoflavone supplement or a diet high in these phytoestrogens. Genistein (3.4 mg/kg) or sucrose control pellets were orally administered to animals daily, 30 minutes before behavioral testing, and again both 4 and 8 hours after the first treatment. The test battery consisted of a delayed spatial alternation task (DSA) that tested working memory and a differential reinforcement of low rates of responding (DRL) task that tested inhibitory control/timing. Genistein treatment impaired DSA performance relative to sucrose controls. Performance on the DRL task was largely unaffected by genistein treatment. Although the impairment measured on DSA was less pronounced than that we have previously reported following chronic treatment with 17β-estradiol, the pattern of the deficit was very similar to that observed with 17β-estradiol.
genistein; phytoestrogens; aging; executive function; prefrontal