Increased high-affinity nicotinic receptor-binding in rats exposed to lead during development

David A. Jett, Rondell A. Beckles, Ryman V. Navoa, Gabrielle L. McLemore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Receptor autoradiography and membrane radioligand-binding assays were used to determine the expression of nicotinic cholinergic receptors in the brains of weanling rats exposed to low-levels of lead (Pb) during development. Nicotinic receptors were identified with the frog toxin epibatidine (EB) that binds with high affinity to a variety of receptors containing α and β subunits. Rat pups were exposed to Pb from their mothers given 750-ppm Pb in the diet beginning on gestational day 0 through postnatal day (PN) 21. Blood Pb levels ranged from 36.5 to 46.5 μg/dl in the PN21 pups, and this exposure did not alter their body weight when compared to control rats. Several brain regions identified by autoradiographic studies as having significant binding of EB were dissected from control and Pb-treated pups and used in saturation-binding experiments with membrane preparations to determine the affinity constant (Kd) and maximal-binding capacity (Bmax) of [3H]EB. Results indicate that the Bmax of [3H]EB was increased in several brain regions in Pb-treated rat pups, without a significant effect on Kd estimates. [3H]EB-binding to membranes from untreated rats was not affected by in vitro exposure to 20-μM Pb, indicating that the effect of Pb on [3H]EB-binding in vivo was not likely due to direct influence of free Pb remaining in the tissue at the time of assay. The data therefore suggest that expression of nicotinic receptors that bind [3H]EB were increased by developmental exposure to Pb. Several possible mechanisms for these effects and the potential toxicological significance are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)805-811
Number of pages7
JournalNeurotoxicology and Teratology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain
  • Epibatidine
  • Lead (Pb)
  • Neurodevelopment
  • Nicotinic receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Toxicology

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