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Pediatr Res. 2000 Mar;47(3):362-8.

Prenatal exposure to toluene results in abnormal neurogenesis and migration in rat somatosensory cortex.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, University of California, Davis 95616, USA.


Toluene inhalant abuse during pregnancy may result in growth-retarded microcephalic newborns who subsequently demonstrate developmental impairment. By using a rat model of toluene-abuse embryopathy, we studied the effects of prenatal toluene exposure on the generation and migration of cortical neurons. Dams were exposed by gavage to either corn oil or toluene diluted in corn oil on d 6-21 of gestation. The time of origin of cortical neurons was determined in the mature pups of dams injected with the thymidine analogue 5'-bromodeoxyuridine on 1 d during the period from d 13-21 of gestation. 5'-Bromodeoxyuridine-labeled neurons were identified by immunohistochemistry in a 400-microm-wide column of somatosensory cortex. The brains of the toluene-exposed pups had a significant reduction in the number of neurons within each cortical layer (p < 0.001). Depending on the cortical layer, the generation of neurons in the toluene-exposed pups was delayed by 1 or 2 d. In addition, the brains of the toluene-exposed pups also showed evidence of abnormal neuronal migration. However, there were no differences in either brain weight or body weight between the control and toluene-exposed pups. These observations suggest that although prenatal toluene exposure results in abnormal neuronal proliferation and migration, brain weight in the toluene-exposed pups may be preserved by enhanced development of glia or the neuropil.

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