Affordable Access

Efficacy of succimer chelation for reducing brain lead in a primate model of human lead exposure.

  • Jr, Cremin Jd
  • Ml, Luck
  • Nk, Laughlin
  • Don Smith
Published Article
Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology
UCSC Aging biomedical-ucsc


The extent to which succimer (meso-2,3-dimercaptosuccinic acid [DMSA], Chemet) reduces brain lead (Pb) levels may be a primary consideration in evaluating its efficacy for reducing neurotoxicity. Clinical research in this area has been hampered by the need to use blood Pb levels as the index of treatment efficacy, despite the fact that brain Pb level is the exposure parameter of greater relevance to cognitive outcomes. Here, a nonhuman primate model of human Pb exposure was used to determine: (1) The efficacy of oral succimer for reducing brain Pb derived from chronic or recent exposures, and (2) The extent to which blood Pb levels reflect brain Pb prior to and following chelation. Adult rhesus monkeys were chronically exposed to Pb orally for 5 weeks to reach and maintain a target blood Pb level of 35-40 microg/dL. Chelation of Pb from recent exposures was assessed using a stable (204)Pb isotope tracer administered over 4 days prior to treatment. Immediately prior to chelation, a prefrontal cortex (PFC) biopsy was collected to determine pretreatment brain Pb levels. Subsequently, monkeys were assigned to vehicle (n = 5) or succimer (n = 6, 30 mg/kg/day x 5 days followed by 20 mg/kg/day x 14 days) groups. Blood and brain PFC, frontal lobe (FL), hippocampus (H), and striatum (S) were analyzed for total Pb and (204)Pb tracer concentrations by magnetic sector inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry. There were no measurable differences in brain Pb concentrations between the succimer and vehicle groups, indicating that succimer treatment was not efficacious in reducing brain Pb levels. In contrast, the cessation of Pb exposure significantly reduced brain (PFC) Pb (approximately 34%) when compared to pretreatment levels (succimer and vehicle groups). Pb concentrations also varied among brain regions (PFC > FL approximately H > S). Finally, pretreatment PFC Pb concentrations were significantly correlated with the integrated blood Pb level (AUC) over the Pb exposure period, but not with the single pretreatment blood Pb collected concurrently with the PFC biopsy. Following treatment, blood Pb levels correlated only with Pb in the PFC, and not the other brain regions measured (FL, H, S). These data indicate that, under the conditions of this study, succimer treatment did not reduce brain Pb levels beyond the cessation of Pb exposure alone. Moreover, a single blood Pb measurement may be a poor predictor of brain Pb levels, reflecting limitations in the use of blood Pb level as an indicator of treatment efficacy.

Report this publication


Seen <100 times