Flame retardants such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) and tetrabromobisphenol A are used as flame retardants and detected in the environmental, wildlife species and human tissues. Exposure to PBDEs during the neonatal development of the brain has been shown to affect behavior and learning and memory in adult mice, while neonatal exposure to TBBPA (another brominated flame retardant) did not affect behavioral variables in the adult. In this study, we hypothesized that the effects of these compounds could be reflected by changes in biochemical substrates and cholinergic receptors and have examined the levels of four proteins involved in maturation of the brain, neuronal growth and synaptogenesis and the densities of both muscarinic and nicotinic cholinergic receptors. We measured the levels of radioactivity in the brain after administration of (14)C-labelled TBBPA at different time points and saw that levels of TBBA peaked earlier and decreased faster than the earlier reported levels of PBDE 99. The protein analysis in the neonatal brain showed changes in the levels of calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII), growth associated protein-43 (GAP-43) and synaptophysin following neonatal exposure to PBDE 99 (21 μmol/kg body weight), but not following exposure TBBPA. Furthermore, neonatal exposure to PBDE 99 and TBBPA caused a decrease in binding sites of the nicotinic ligand cytisine in frontal cortex. These results confirm earlier reported data that PBDE 99 can act as a developmental neurotoxicant, possibly due to its different uptake and retention in the brain compared to TBBPA. In addition, the changes in protein levels are interesting leads in the search for mechanisms behind the developmental neonatal neurotoxicity of PBDEs in general and PBDE 99 in particular, since also other compounds inducing similar adult behavioral disturbances as PBDE 99, affect these proteins during the period of rapid brain development.
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