Learning impairment caused by a toxin produced by Pfiesteria piscicida infused into the hippocampus of rats.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Pfiesteria piscicida, an estuarine dinoflagellate, which has been shown to kill fish, has also been associated with neurocognitive deficits in humans. With a rat model, we have demonstrated the cause-and-effect relationship between Pfiesteria exposure and learning impairment. In several studies, we have replicated the finding in Sprague-Dawley rats that exposure to fixed acute doses of Pfiesteria cells or filtrates caused radial-arm maze learning impairment. Recently, this finding of Pfiesteria-induced learning impairment in rats has been independently replicated in another laboratory as well. We have demonstrated significant Pfiesteria-induced learning impairment in both the win-shift and repeated-acquisition tasks in the radial-arm maze and in reversal learning in a visual operant signal detection task. These learning impairments have been seen as long as 10 weeks after a single acute exposure to Pfiesteria. In the current study, we used a hydrophilic toxin isolated from clonal P. piscicida cultures (PfTx) and tested its effect when applied locally to the ventral hippocampus on repeated acquisition of rats in the radial-arm maze. Toxin exposure impaired choice accuracy in the radial-arm maze repeated acquisition procedure. The PfTx-induced impairment was seen at the beginning of the session and the early learning deficit was persistent across 6 weeks of testing after a single administration of the toxin. Eventually, with enough practice, in each session, the PfTx-exposed rats did learn that session's problem as did control rats. This model has demonstrated the cause-and-effect relationship between exposure to a hydrophilic toxin produced by P. piscicida and learning impairment, and specifically that the ventral hippocampus was critically involved.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Levin, ED; Blackwelder, WP; Glasgow, HB; Burkholder, JM; Moeller, PDR; Ramsdell, JS

Published Date

  • July 2003

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 25 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 419 - 426

PubMed ID

  • 12798959

Pubmed Central ID

  • 12798959

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0892-0362

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/s0892-0362(03)00011-4


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States