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J Mol Neurosci. 2009 Jun;38(2):159-65. doi: 10.1007/s12031-008-9145-8. Epub 2008 Sep 16.

Modifications of the expression of genes involved in cerebral cholesterol metabolism in the rat following chronic ingestion of depleted uranium.

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Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety, Radiological Protection and Human Health Division, Radiobiology and Epidemiology Department, Laboratory of Experimental Nuclear Toxicology, BP no 17, F-92262, Fontenay-aux-Roses Cedex, France.


Depleted uranium results from the enrichment of natural uranium for energetic purpose. Its potential dispersion in the environment would set human populations at risk of being contaminated through ingestion. Uranium can build up in the brain and induce behavior disorders. As a major constituent of the myelin sheath, cholesterol is essential to brain function, and several neurological pathologies result from a disruption of cholesterol metabolism. To assess the effect of a chronic contamination with depleted uranium on cerebral cholesterol metabolism, rats were exposed to depleted uranium for 9 months through drinking water at 40 mg/l. The study focuses on gene expression. Cholesterol-catabolizing enzyme CYP46A1 displayed a 39% increase of its messenger RNA (mRNA) level. 3-Hydroxy-3-methylglutamyl CoA synthase gene expression rose from 91%. Concerning cholesterol transport, mRNA levels of scavenger receptor-B1 and adenosine triphosphate-binding cassette transporter A1 increased by 34% and that of apolipoprotein E by 75%. Concerning regulation, gene expression of nuclear receptors peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors alpha and gamma increased by 46% and 36% respectively, whereas that of retinoid-X-receptor decreased by 29%. In conclusion, a chronic internal contamination with depleted uranium does not affect the health status of rats but induces molecular changes in the dynamic equilibrium of the cerebral cholesterol pool.

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