Wirbisky SE, Weber GJ, Lee JW, Cannon JR, Freeman JL. 2014. Novel dose-dependent alterations in excitatory GABA during embryonic development associated with lead (Pb) neurotoxicity. Toxicol Lett 229:1–8.
Lead (Pb) is a heavy metal that is toxic to numerous physiological processes. Its use in industrial applications is widespread and results in an increased risk of human environmental exposure. The central nervous system (CNS) is most sensitive to Pb exposure during early development due to rapid cell proliferation and migration, axonal growth, and synaptogenesis. One of the key components of CNS development is the Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-ergic system. GABA is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the adult brain. However, during development GABA acts as an excitatory neurotrophic factor which contributes to these cellular processes. Multiple studies report effects of Pb on GABA in the mature brain; however, little is known regarding the adverse effects of Pb exposure on the GABAergic system during embryonic development. To characterize the effects of Pb on the GABAergic system during development, zebrafish embryos were exposed to 10, 50, or 100 ppb Pb or a control treatment. Tissue up-take, gross morphological alterations, gene expression, and neurotransmitter levels were analyzed. Analysis revealed that alterations in gene expression throughout the GABAergic system and GABA levels were dose and developmental time point specific. These data provide a framework for further analysis of the effects of Pb on the GABAergic system during the excitatory phase and as GABA transitions to an inhibitory neurotransmitter during development.