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Mouse cerebellar astrocytes protect cerebellar granule neurons against toxicity of the polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) mixture DE-71

Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.neuro.2008.12.009
  • Pbdes
  • Neurotoxicity
  • Biology
  • Ecology
  • Geography


Abstract A large body of evidence indicates that polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants have become widespread environmental pollutants. Body burden is particularly high in infants and toddlers, due to exposure through maternal milk and house dust. Animal studies suggest that PBDEs may exert developmental neurotoxicity, via mechanisms that are still elusive. PBDEs have been reported to cause oxidative stress and apoptotic cell death in neurons in vitro, when tested in mono-cultures. Here we report the results of experiments in which mouse cerebellar granule neurons (CGNs) were co-cultured with cerebellar astrocytes. Astrocytes were found to protect neurons against the toxicity of the PBDE mixture DE-71. Astrocytes from Gclm (−/−) mice, which lack the modifier subunit of glutamate cysteine ligase and, as a consequence, have very low GSH levels, were much less effective at protecting CGNs from DE-71 toxicity. The protective effects were mostly due to the ability of Gclm (+/+) astrocytes to increase GSH levels in neurons. By increasing GSH, GSH ethylester provided a similar protective effect. In vivo, where both neurons and astrocytes would be either Gclm (+/+) or Gclm (−/−), the toxicity of DE-71 to CGNs is predicted to vary 16.8-fold, depending on genotype. Hence, in addition to being intrinsically more susceptible to DE-71 toxicity because of their low GSH content, CGNs in Gclm (−/−) mice would also lack the full protective effect provided by astrocytes. Since several polymorphisms, including some in the Gclm gene, cause very low levels of GSH, it may be speculated that such individuals might display a higher susceptibility to the neurotoxic effects of PBDEs.

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