Toxicology in vitro : an international journal published in association with BIBRA

Lead decreases cell survival, proliferation, and neuronal differentiation of primary cultured adult neural precursor cells through activation of the JNK and p38 MAP kinases.

PMID 25967738


Adult hippocampal neurogenesis is the process whereby adult neural precursor cells (aNPCs) in the subgranular zone (SGZ) of the dentate gyrus (DG) generate adult-born, functional neurons in the hippocampus. This process is modulated by various extracellular and intracellular stimuli, and the adult-born neurons have been implicated in hippocampus-dependent learning and memory. However, studies on how neurotoxic agents affect this process and the underlying mechanisms are limited. The goal of this study was to determine whether lead, a heavy metal, directly impairs critical processes in adult neurogenesis and to characterize the underlying signaling pathways using primary cultured SGZ-aNPCs isolated from adult mice. We report here that lead significantly increases apoptosis and inhibits proliferation in SGZ-aNPCs. In addition, lead significantly impairs spontaneous neuronal differentiation and maturation. Furthermore, we found that activation of the c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) and p38 mitogen activated protein (MAP) kinase signaling pathways are important for lead cytotoxicity. Our data suggest that lead can directly act on adult neural stem cells and impair critical processes in adult hippocampal neurogenesis, which may contribute to its neurotoxicity and adverse effects on cognition in adults.