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Neurotoxicology. 1996 Fall-Winter;17(3-4):753-9.

Peripheral markers of neurochemical effects among styrene-exposed workers.

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Laboratory of Industrial Toxicology, University of Parma Medical School, Italy.


Monoamine oxidase B (MAO-B) activity in platelets, serum dopamine-beta-hydroxylase (DBH) activity, and serum prolactin (PRL) were measured during a cross-sectional investigation in workers occupationally exposed to styrene. The study group consisted of 53 workers (33 men and 20 women) employed for 9.3 years on average (range 1-22) in reinforced plastics plants. Sixty industrial workers with no known exposure to chemicals and comparable as to age, sex and confounding variables were recruited as controls. The activities of MAO-B in platelet-rich plasma and of DBH in serum from exposed and control subjects were measured within the same run, using methods based on the liquid-chromatographic determination of the reaction products. Serum PRL was determined by both EIA and RIA. Blood samples had been collected between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. A lower DBH activity was found in exposed as compared to control workers (GM: 7.25 U/ml serum vs. 10.11 U/ml serum; p < 0.01), whereas MAO-B activity was significantly lower in a heavily exposed subgroup (10.1 vs. 13.8 U/10(7) platelets; p = 0.05), but not in the whole sample (p = 0.07). Serum PRL was higher both in male (GM: 8.90 ng/ml vs. 6.05 ng/ml; p < 0.01) and female (GM: 12.6 ng/ml vs. 9.33 ng/ml; p < 0.05) styrene-exposed workers as compared to their respective controls. Dose-response relationships were found for abnormally low DBH and abnormally high PRL values, with a threshold occurring at metabolite levels corresponding to 8h-TWA styrene concentrations in air around 25 ppm. In summary, this study shows that long-term exposure to relatively low levels of styrene can affect DBH activity and basal serum PRL. Owing to its sensitivity, PRL is a useful biomarker to show impairments of dopaminergic control on pituitary secretion. Since DBH is expression of catecholamine secretion, its decreased activity could represent an indirect index of altered turnover rate of the physiological substrate (i.e.dopamine) at the neuronal level. However, a direct interference by styrene metabolites on enzyme activity cannot be ruled out. Platelet MAO-B activity seems to be less sensitive to styrene exposure.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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