NYMC Faculty Publications

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Toxicological Sciences

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Cell Biology and Anatomy


Childhood lead (Pb2+) intoxication is a public health problem of global proportion. Lead exposure during development produces multiple effects on the central nervous system including impaired synapse formation, altered synaptic plasticity, and learning deficits. In primary hippocampal neurons in culture and hippocampal slices, Pb2+ exposure inhibits vesicular release and reduces the number of fast-releasing sites, an effect associated with Pb2+ inhibition of NMDA receptor-mediated trans-synaptic Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) signaling. The objective of this study was to determine if activation of TrkB, the cognate receptor for BDNF, would rescue Pb2+-induced impairments of vesicular release. Rats were chronically exposed to Pb2+ prenatally and postnatally until 50 days of age. This chronic Pb2+ exposure paradigm enhanced paired-pulse facilitation of synaptic potentials in Schaffer collateral-CA1 synapses in the hippocampus, a phenomenon indicative of reduced vesicular release probability. Decreased vesicular release probability was confirmed by both mean-variance analysis and direct 2-photon imaging of vesicular release from hippocampal slices of rats exposed to Pb2+in vivo. We also found a Pb2+-induced impairment of calcium influx in Schaffer collateral-CA1 synaptic terminals. Intraperitoneal injections of Pb2+ rats with the TrkB receptor agonist 7,8-dihydroxyflavone (5 mg/kg) for 14-15 days starting at postnatal day 35, reversed all Pb2+-induced impairments of presynaptic transmitter release at Schaffer collateral-CA1 synapses. This study demonstrates for the first time that in vivo pharmacological activation of TrkB receptors by small molecules such as 7,8-dihydroxyflavone can reverse long-term effects of chronic Pb2+ exposure on presynaptic terminals, pointing to TrkB receptor activation as a promising therapeutic intervention in Pb2+-intoxicated children.

Publisher's Statement

This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in Toxicological Sciences following peer review. The version of record Zhang, X., McGlothan, J., Miry, O., Stansfield, K., Loth, M., Stanton, P., & Guilarte, T. (2018). From the Cover: 7,8-Dihydroxyflavone Rescues Lead-Induced Impairment of Vesicular Release: A Novel Therapeutic Approach for Lead Intoxicated Children. Toxicological Sciences, 161 (1), 186-195 is available online at: https://doi.org/10.1093/toxsci/kfx210