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Fundam Appl Toxicol. 1991 Aug;17(2):368-75.

Sensitive periods for behavioral toxicity of polychlorinated biphenyls: determination by cross-fostering in rats.

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Medical Institute of Environmental Hygiene, Department of Psychophysiology, Düsseldorf, Germany.


Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are transferred to developing organisms via the milk rather than through placental barriers. Recent epidemiological data, however, suggest a greater importance of the prenatal exposure period for the development of neuropsychological disorders. The relative effectiveness of pre- and postnatal PCB exposure was compared in a cross-fostering experiment in rats. Female Wistar rats were fed diets containing 0 or 30 mg PCB/kg. After birth half of the litters in each exposure group were nursed by dams of the other condition. Six different congeners were determined in the brains of the offspring at various ages. Internal exposure to higher chlorinated congeners peaked at weaning in groups with postnatal or permanent exposure, whereas the concentration of a low-chlorinated compound was lower at weaning than at birth or at later age stages. Brain tissue levels in prenatally treated rats declined with aging. In two behavioral paradigms, active avoidance learning and retention of a visual discrimination task, prenatally exposed rats exhibited alterations similar to those of permanently treated subjects, while postnatal exposure caused no detectable behavioral changes. These results support the above-mentioned epidemiological studies which related neurodevelopmental deficits in children to prenatal PCB exposure.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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