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Chronic lead intoxication affects glial and neural systems and induces hypoactivity in adult rat

Acta Histochemica
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.acthis.2010.06.005
  • Lead
  • Adult Rat
  • Locomotor Activity
  • Astrocyte
  • Dopaminergic Neurons
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Western Blot
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • Geography


Abstract Lead is an environmental toxin and its effects are principally manifested in the brain. Glial and neuronal changes have been described during development following chronic or acute lead intoxication, however, little is known about the effects of chronic lead intoxication in adults. In this study we evaluated immunohistochemically the glial and dopaminergic systems in adult male Wistar rats. 0.5% (v/v) lead acetate in drinking water was administrated chronically over a 3-month period. Hypertrophic immunoreactive astrocytes were observed in the frontal cortex and other brain structures of the treated animals. Analysis of the astroglial features showed increased number of astrocyte cell bodies and processes in treated rats, an increase confirmed by Western blot. Particular distribution of glial fibrillary acidic protein immunoreactivity was observed within the blood vessel walls in which dense immunoreactive glial processes emanate from astrocytes. Glial changes in the frontal cortex were concomitant with reduced tyrosine hydroxylase immunoreactive neuronal processes, which seem to occur as a consequence of significantly reduced dopaminergic neurons within the nucleus of origin in the substantia nigra. These glial and neuronal changes following lead intoxication may affect animal behavior as evidenced by reduced locomotor activity in an open field test. These findings demonstrate that chronic lead exposure induces astroglial changes, which may compromise neuronal function and consequently animal behavior.

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