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Sci Total Environ. 2012 Jan 1;414:205-9. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2011.10.061. Epub 2011 Dec 1.

Extracts from hardwood trees used in commercial paper mills contain biologically active neurochemical disruptors.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada K1N 6N5.


Following on our discovery that pulp and paper mill effluents can interact with, and disrupt, various neurotransmitter receptors and enzymes important to fish reproduction, we tested wood and bark extracts of 14 Eastern North American hardwood trees used in pulp and paper production. Radioligand binding to neurotransmitter receptors, including the dopamine-2 receptor (D2), the gamma aminobutyric acid receptor A (GABA(A)), N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptor, and muscarinic cholinergic receptor (mACh-R), were significantly changed following in vitro incubations with many but not all extracts. Activities of neurotransmitter-related enzymes monoamine oxidase (MAO), GABA-transaminase (GABA-T), acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) were also significantly altered. Butternut wood extracts and the isolated compound juglone significantly inhibited the enzymatic activities of MAO and GAD which we suggest may be part of a mechanism that may negatively affect fish reproduction. Besides giving credence to the hypothesis that neuroactive compounds in pulp and paper effluent may originate in the trees used by mills, the results reported here also indicate important neuropharmacological activities in hardwoods which may help identify new sources of biologically active natural products.

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