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Toxicol In Vitro. 1998 Apr;12(2):191-6.

Lead acetate toxicity in vitro: Dependence on the cell composition of the cultures.

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  • 1Institute of Physiology, University of Lausanne, CH-1005 Lausanne, Switzerland.


It is well known that exposure to low doses of lead causes long-lasting neurobehavioural deficits, but the cellular changes underlying these behavioural changes remain to be elucidated. A protective role of glial cells on neurons through lead sequestration by astrocytes has been proposed. The possible modulation of lead neurotoxicity by neuron-glia interactions was examined in three-dimensional cultures of foetal rat telencephalon. Mixed-brain cell cultures or cultures enriched in either neurons or glial cells were treated for 10 days with lead acetate (10(-6) m), a concentration below the limit of cytotoxicity. Intracellular lead content and cell type-specific enzyme activities were determined. It was found that in enriched cultures neurons stored more lead than glial cells, and each cell type alone stored more lead than in co-culture. Moreover, glial cells but not neurons were more affected by lead in enriched culture than in co-culture. These results show that neuron-glia interactions attenuate the cellular lead uptake and the glial susceptibility to lead, but they do not support the idea of a protective role of astrocytes.

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