Microglial Disruption in Young Mice with Early Chronic Exposure to Lead

Mayra G. Flores, University of Texas, El Paso
Natali Parisi, New Mexico State University
Tanner Schaub, New Mexico State University
Miguel Cervantes, University of Texas El Paso
Rodrigo X. Armijos, University of Texas El Paso


The mechanisms by which early chronic lead (Pb) exposure alters brain development have not been identified. We examined neuroimmune system effects in C57BL/6J mice with Pb exposure, including levels that may be common among children in lower socioeconomic income environments. Pups were exposed via dams’ drinking water from birth to post-natal day 28 to low, high or no Pb conditions. We compared gene expression of neuroinflammatory markers (study 1), and microglial mean cell body volume and mean cell body number in dentate gyrus, and dentate gyrus volume (study 2). Blood Pb levels in exposed animals at sacrifice (post-natal day 28) ranged from 2.66 to 20.31 micrograms/deciliter. Only interleukin-6 (IL6) differed between groups and reductions were dose-dependent. Microglia cell body number also differed between groups and reductions were dose-dependent. As compared with controls, microglia cell body volume was greater but highly variable in only low-dose animals, dentate gyri volumes in low- and high-dose animals were reduced. The results did not support a model of increased neuroinflammation. Instead, early chronic exposure to Pb disrupted microglia via damage to, loss of, or lack of proliferation of microglia in the developing brains of Pb-exposed animals.