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Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2013 Jul-Aug;38:36-45. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2013 Apr 24.

Early life versus lifelong oral manganese exposure differently impairs skilled forelimb performance in adult rats.

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Department of Microbiology and Environmental Toxicology, University of California, 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA.


Recent studies of children suggest that exposure to elevated manganese (Mn) levels disrupts aspects of motor, cognitive and behavioral functions that are dependent on dopamine brain systems. Although basal ganglia motor functions are well-known targets of adult occupational Mn exposure, the extent of motor function deficits in adults as a result of early life Mn exposure is unknown. Here we used a rodent model early life versus lifelong oral Mn exposure and the Montoya staircase test to determine whether developmental Mn exposure produces long-lasting deficits in sensorimotor performance in adulthood. Long-Evans male neonate rats (n=11/treatment) were exposed daily to oral Mn at levels of 0, 25, or 50mg Mn/kg/d from postnatal day (PND) 1-21 (early life only), or from PND 1-throughout life. Staircase testing began at age PND 120 and lasted 1month to objectively quantify measures of skilled forelimb use in reaching and pellet grasping/retrieval performance. Behavioral reactivity also was rated on each trial. Results revealed that (1) behavioral reactivity scores were significantly greater in the Mn-exposed groups, compared to controls, during the staircase acclimation/training stage, but not the latter testing stages, (2) early life Mn exposure alone caused long-lasting impairments in fine motor control of reaching skills at the higher, but not lower Mn dose, (3) lifelong Mn exposure from drinking water led to widespread impairment in reaching and grasping/retrieval performance in adult rats, with the lower Mn dose group showing the greatest impairment, and (4) lifelong Mn exposure produced similar (higher Mn group) or more severe (lower Mn group) impairments compared to their early life-only Mn exposed counterparts. Collectively, these results substantiate the emerging clinical evidence in children showing associations between environmental Mn exposure and deficits in fine sensorimotor function. They also show that the objective quantification of skilled motor performance using the staircase test can serve as a sensitive measure of early life insults from environmental agents. Supported by NIEHS R01ES018990.


Adult rats; Animal model; Developmental exposure; Manganese; Skilled motor behavior; Water intake

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