Prenatal dexamethasone augments the sex-selective developmental neurotoxicity of chlorpyrifos: implications for vulnerability after pharmacotherapy for preterm labor.
Glucocorticoids are routinely given in preterm labor and are also elevated by maternal stress; organophosphate exposures are virtually ubiquitous, so coexposures to these two agents are pervasive. We administered dexamethasone to pregnant rats on gestational days 17-19 at a standard therapeutic dose (0.2mg/kg); offspring were then given chlorpyrifos on postnatal days 1-4, at a dose (1mg/kg) that produces barely-detectable (<10%) inhibition of brain cholinesterase activity. We evaluated indices for acetylcholine (ACh) synaptic function throughout adolescence, young adulthood and later adulthood, in brain regions possessing the majority of ACh projections and cell bodies; we measured nicotinic ACh receptor binding, hemicholinium-3 binding to the presynaptic choline transporter and choline acetyltransferase activity, all known targets for the adverse developmental effects of dexamethasone and chlorpyrifos given individually. Dexamethasone did not enhance the systemic toxicity of chlorpyrifos, as evidenced by weight gain and measurements of cholinesterase inhibition during chlorpyrifos treatment. Nevertheless, it enhanced the loss of presynaptic ACh function selectively in females, who ordinarily show sparing of organophosphate developmental neurotoxicity relative to males. Females receiving the combined treatment showed decrements in choline transporter binding and choline acetyltransferase activity that were unique (not found with either treatment alone), as well as additive decrements in nicotinic receptor binding. On the other hand, males given dexamethasone showed no augmentation of the effects of chlorpyrifos. Our findings indicate that prior dexamethasone exposure could create a subpopulation that is especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of organophosphates or other developmental neurotoxicants.
Slotkin, TA; Card, J; Infante, A; Seidler, FJ
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