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Toxicol Sci. 2012 Sep;129(1):108-25. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfs189. Epub 2012 May 28.

Effects of developmental lead exposure on the hippocampal transcriptome: influences of sex, developmental period, and lead exposure level.

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Department of Pathology, Anatomy and Cell Biology, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107, USA.


Developmental lead (Pb) exposure has profound effects on cognition and behavior. Much is known about effects of Pb on hippocampal-mediated behaviors, but little is known about the molecular consequences of Pb exposure and the influences of developmental timing of exposure, level of exposure, and sex as effect modifiers of Pb exposure on the brain. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of different levels of Pb exposure (250 and 750 ppm Pb acetate) during perinatal (gestation/lactation) and postnatal (through postnatal day 45) periods on the hippocampal transcriptome in male and female Long Evans rats. Total RNA was extracted from hippocampus from four animals per experimental condition. RNA was hybridized to Affymetrix Rat Gene RNA Arrays using standard methods. Pb exposure per se influenced the expression of 717 transcripts (328 unique annotated genes), with many influenced in a sex-independent manner. Significant differences in gene expression patterns were also influenced by timing and level of exposure, with generally larger effects at the lower level of exposure across all groups. Statistically enriched biological functions included ion binding, regulation of RNA metabolic processes, and positive regulation of macromolecule biosynthetic processes. Processes of regulation of transcription and regulation of gene expression were preferentially enriched in males, regardless of timing or amount of Pb exposure. The effect on transcription factors and the diverse pathways or networks affected by Pb suggest a substantial effect of developmental Pb exposure on plasticity and adaptability, with these effects significantly modified by sex, developmental window of exposure, and level of Pb exposure.

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