Sulfite, which is continuously formed in the body during metabolism of sulfur-containing amino acids, is commonly used in preservatives. It has been shown that there are toxic effects of sulfite on many cellular components. The aim of this study was to investigate the possible toxic effects of sulfite on pyramidal neurons by counting cell numbers in CA1 and CA2-CA3 subdivisions of the rat hippocampus. For this purpose, male albino rats were divided into a control group and a sulfite group (25 mg/kg). Sulfite was administered to the animals via drinking water for 8 weeks. At the end of the experimental period, brains were removed and neurons were estimated in total and in a known fraction of CA1 and CA2-CA3 subdivisions of the left hippocampus by using the optical fractionator method--a stereological method. Results showed that sulfite treatment caused a significant decrease in the total number of pyramidal neurons in three subdivisions of the hippocampus (CA1 and CA2-CA3) in the sulfite group compared with the control group (p < 0.05, Mann Whitney U test). It was concluded that exogenous administration of sulfite causes loss of pyramidal neurons in CA1 and CA2-CA3 subdivisions of the rat hippocampus.
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