"Orderly choreography of the calmodulin kinase-to-Wnt2 pathway translates normal increases in calcium levels into normal levels of dendrite production," said Wayman. "The wiring of billions of neurons is dependent on the health of this cellular process and is crucial to proper development of virtually all complex behaviors, learning, memories and language."
For the current studies, the team set out to determine if that pathway was altered by exposure to PCBs, focusing on neurons of the hippocampus the brain region linked with learning and memory and known to suffer impaired connectivity in many neurodevelopmental disorders.
The scientists also focused on the effects of an understudied PCB subset known as non-dioxin-like PCBs, which have been shown to increase calcium levels in neurons. Both non-dioxin-like PCBs and the more familiar dioxin-like subset were widely used in electrical equipment in the 1950s and 1960s. Banned in the 1970s because of the potential for dioxin-like PCBs to cause cancer, all PCBs are stable compounds that persist throughout the environment today.
One of the current UC Davis studies examined dendrite growth in rat pups born to and nursed by PCB-exposed mothers. Another study analyzed how PCBs affect rat neurons in cell cultures at developmental stages similar to those in the third trimester of pregnancy in humans. In both studies, PCB exposure levels were similar to those found in the human diet and in human tissues, including the placenta and breast milk.
Evaluation of the brains of the rats exposed to PCBs early in life showed significant overproduction of dendrites. The cellular studies showed that PCBs triggered the calcium pathway that led to the ab
|Contact: Karen Finney|
University of California - Davis Health System