Regular articles

Assessing pre/post-weaning neurobehavioral development for perinatal exposure to low doses of methylmercury

Jinping Cheng , Masatake Fujimura , Dandan Bo


Received January 18, 2015,Revised May 26, 2015, Accepted May 28, 2015, Available online August 21, 2015

Volume 38,2015,Pages 36-41

Fetuses and neonates are known to be high-risk groups for Methylmercury (MeHg) exposure. MeHg can be transferred to the fetus through the placenta and to newborn offspring through breast milk. The aim of the present study was to investigate the neurotoxic effects of low doses of MeHg (1 and 5 μg/mL in drinking water) administration, from gestational day 1 to postnatal day (PND) 21, on the neurobehavioral development of rats. The results showed that the no-observed-effect level of MeHg is somewhere in the range of 1–4 μg/mL. Neurobehavioral development analysis revealed a delayed appearance of cliff drop and negative geotaxis reflexes in the 5 μg/mL MeHg exposure group. Developmental exposure to MeHg affected locomotor activity functions for the females, but not for the males, implying that the female pups were more vulnerable than the male pups. All pups exposed to 5 μg/mL of MeHg showed a significant deficit in motor coordination in the rotarod test compared with controls, and the highest accumulated concentrations of Hg were found in the cerebellum, followed by the hippocampus and cerebral cortex, indicating that the cerebellum is a possible target for MeHg toxicity. We demonstrated adverse effects of developmental exposure to MeHg associated with tissue concentrations very close to the current human body burden of this persistent and bioaccumulative compound.

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