Although the acute toxicity of methanol is well documented, few studies have addressed the consequences of perinatal exposures to the low concentrations that are expected to arise from its proposed use as a component of automobile fuel. This report describes the general research design of a series of studies, the effects of methanol exposures on blood concentrations in dams and neonates, and indices of brain development. Four cohorts of Long-Evans pregnant rats, each cohort consisting of an exposure (n = 12) and a control (n = 12) group, were exposed whole-body to 4500 ppm methanol vapor or air for 6 hr daily beginning on Gestation Day 6. Both dams and pups were then exposed through Postnatal Day 21 (PND 21). Blood methanol concentrations determined by gas chromatography from samples obtained immediately following a 6-hr exposure reached approximately 500-800 μg/ml in the dams during gestation and lactation. Average concentrations for pups attained levels about twice those of the dams. Selected offspring from Cohort 4 were exposed for one additional 6-hr session at ages that extended out to PND 52. Regression analyses showed that the blood methanol concentrations of the pups declined until about PND 48, at which time their levels approximated those of their dams. Such pharmacokinetic differences might increase the risks posed to developing organisms. Light-microscopic analysis showed no significant abnormalities in the brains of the methanol-treated animals. However, assays of neural cell adhesion molecules (NCAMs) in brains of pups sacrificed on PND 4 showed staining for both the 140 and the 180 kDa isoforms to be less intense in the cerebellum of exposed animals. NCAM differences were not apparent in animals sacrificed 15 months after their final exposure.
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