Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

In what ways does lead damage the brain? It derails the brain's center for learning

Date:
February 29, 2012
Source:
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Summary:
Exposure to lead wreaks havoc in the brain, with consequences that include lower IQ and reduced potential for learning. But the precise mechanism by which lead alters nerve cells in the brain has largely remained unknown. New research has used high-powered fluorescent microscopy and other advanced techniques to painstakingly chart the varied ways lead inflicts its damage.

New research shows that lead interferes with the synthesis and function of BDNF, derailing the brain’s center for learning.
Credit: Image courtesy of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

Exposure to lead wreaks havoc in the brain, with consequences that include lower IQ and reduced potential for learning. But the precise mechanism by which lead alters nerve cells in the brain has largely remained unknown.

Related Articles


New research led by Tomαs R. Guilarte, PhD, Chair of Environmental Health Sciences, and post-doctoral research scientist Kirstie H. Stansfield, PhD, used high-powered fluorescent microscopy and other advanced techniques to painstakingly chart the varied ways lead inflicts its damage. They focused on signaling pathways involved in the production of brain-derived neurotropic factor, or BDNF, a chemical critical to the creation of new synapses in the hippocampus, the brain's center for memory and learning.

The study appears online in the journal Toxicological Sciences.

Once BDNF is produced in the nucleus, explains Dr. Stansfield, it is transported as cargo in a railroad-car-like vesicle along a track called a microtubule toward sites of release in the axon and dendritic spines. Vesicle navigation is controlled in part through activation (phosphorylation) of the huntingtin protein, which as its name suggests, was first identified through research into Huntington's disease. By looking at huntington expression, the researchers found that lead exposure, even in small amounts, is likely to impede or reverse the train by altering phosphorylation at a specific amino acid.

The BDNF vesicle transport slowdown is just one of a variety of ways that lead impedes BDNF's function. The researchers also explored how lead curbs production of BDNF in the cell nucleus. One factor, they say, may be a protein called methyl CpG binding protein 2, or MeCP2, which has been linked with RETT syndrome and autism spectrum disorders and acts to "silence" BDNF gene transcription.

The paper provides the first comprehensive working model of the ways by which lead exposure impairs synapse development and function. "Lead attacks the most fundamental aspect of the brain -- the synapse. But by better understanding the numerous and complex ways this happens we will be better able to develop therapies that ameliorate the damage," says Dr. Guilarte.

Study co-authors include J. Richard Pilsner from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; and Quan Lu and Robert O. Wright of the Harvard School of Public Health.

Funding was provided by the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. K. H. Stansfield, J. R. Pilsner, Q. Lu, R. O. Wright, T. R. Guilarte. Dysregulation of BDNF-TrkB signaling in developing hippocampal neurons by Pb2 Implications for an environmental basis of neurodevelopmental disorders. Toxicological Sciences, 2012; DOI: 10.1093/toxsci/kfs090

Cite This Page:

Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "In what ways does lead damage the brain? It derails the brain's center for learning." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 February 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120229105141.htm>.
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. (2012, February 29). In what ways does lead damage the brain? It derails the brain's center for learning. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 30, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120229105141.htm
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "In what ways does lead damage the brain? It derails the brain's center for learning." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120229105141.htm (accessed January 30, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, January 30, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Binge-Watching TV Linked To Loneliness

Binge-Watching TV Linked To Loneliness

Newsy (Jan. 29, 2015) — Researchers at University of Texas at Austin found a link between binge-watching TV shows and feelings of loneliness and depression. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Signs You Might Be The Passive Aggressive Friend

Signs You Might Be The Passive Aggressive Friend

BuzzFeed (Jan. 28, 2015) — "No, I&apos;m not mad. Why, are you mad?" Video provided by BuzzFeed
Powered by NewsLook.com
City Divided: A Look at Model Schools in the TDSB

City Divided: A Look at Model Schools in the TDSB

The Toronto Star (Jan. 27, 2015) — Model schools are rethinking how they engage with the community to help enhance the lives of the students and their parents. Video provided by The Toronto Star
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Saves Pennies For 65 Years

Man Saves Pennies For 65 Years

Rooftop Comedy (Jan. 26, 2015) — A man in Texas saved every penny he found for 65 years, and this week he finally cashed them in. Bank tellers at Prosperity Bank in Slaton, Texas were shocked when Ira Keys arrived at their bank with over 500 pounds of loose pennies stored in coffee cans. After more than an hour of sorting and counting, it turned out the 81 year-old was in possession of 81,600 pennies, or $816. And he&apos;s got more at home! Video provided by Rooftop Comedy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins