Chemical research in toxicology

Polychlorinated biphenyls PCB 52, PCB 180, and PCB 138 impair the glutamate-nitric oxide-cGMP pathway in cerebellar neurons in culture by different mechanisms.

PMID 20297801


Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are persistent organic pollutants that accumulate in the food chain and are present in human blood and milk. Children born to mothers exposed to PCBs show cognitive deficits, which are reproduced in rats perinatally exposed to PCBs. It has been proposed that PCB-induced cognitive impairment is due to impairment of the glutamate-nitric oxide (NO)-cGMP pathway. The aim of the present work was to assess whether chronic exposure to the nondioxin-like PCB52, PCB138, or PCB180 alters the function of this pathway in primary cultures of rat cerebellar neurons and to assess whether different PCBs have similar or different mechanisms of action. PCB180 and PCB138 impair the function of the glutamate-NO-cGMP pathway at nanomolar concentrations, and PCB52 impairs the function of the glutamate-NO-cGMP pathway at micromolar concentrations. The mechanisms by which different PCBs impair the function of the glutamate-NO-cGMP pathway are different. Each PCB affects the pathway at more than one step but with different potency and, for some steps, in opposite ways. Exposure to the PCBs alters the basal concentrations of intracellular calcium, NO, and cGMP. The three PCBs increase NO; however, PCB52 and PCB138 increase basal cGMP, while PCB180 decreases it. PCB52 and PCB138 decrease the activation of soluble guanylate cyclase by NO, and PCB180 increases it. Long-term exposure to PCB52, PCB180, or PCB138 reduces the activation of NO synthase and the whole glutamate-NO-cGMP pathway in response to activation of N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors. The EC(50) was 300 nM for PCB52 and 2 nM for PCB138 or PCB180. These results show that chronic exposure to nondioxin like PCBs impairs the function of the glutamate-NO-cGMP pathway in cerebellar neurons by different mechanisms and with different potencies. Impaired function of this pathway would contribute to the cognitive alterations induced by perinatal exposure to PCBs in humans.