Genetic polymorphisms ofGRIN2AandGRIN2Bmodify the neurobehavioral effects of low-level lead exposure in children

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Lead (Pb) is neurotoxic and children are highly susceptible to this effect, particularly within the context of continuous low-level Pb exposure. A current major challenge is identification of children who may be uniquely susceptible to Pb toxicity because of genetic predisposition. Learning and memory are among the neurobehavioral processes that are most notably affected by Pb exposure, and modification of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDAR) that regulate these processes during development are postulated to underlie these adverse effects of Pb. We examined the hypothesis that polymorphic variants of genes encoding glutamate receptor, ionotropic, NMDAR subunits 2A and 2B, GRIN2A and GRIN2B, exacerbate the adverse effects of Pb exposure on these processes in children. Participants were subjects who participated as children in the Casa Pia Dental Amalgam Clinical Trial and for whom baseline blood Pb concentrations and annual neurobehavioral test results over the 7 year course of the clinical trial were available. Genotyping assays were performed for variants of GRIN2A (rs727605 and rs1070503) and GRIN2B (rs7301328 and rs1806201) on biological samples acquired from 330 of the original 507 trial participants. Regression modeling strategies were employed to evaluate the association between genotype status, Pb exposure, and neurobehavioral test outcomes. Numerous significant adverse interaction effects between variants of both GRIN2A and GRIN2B, individually and in combination, and Pb exposure were observed particularly among boys, preferentially within the domains of Learning & Memory and Executive Function. In contrast, very few interaction effects were observed among similarly genotyped girls with comparable Pb exposure. These findings support observations of an essential role of GRIN2A and GRIN2B on developmental processes underlying learning and memory as well as other neurological functions in children and demonstrate, further, modification of Pb effects on these processes by specific variants of both GRIN2A and GRIN2B genes. These observations highlight the importance of genetic factors in defining susceptibility to Pb neurotoxicity and may have important public health implications for future strategies aimed at protecting children and adolescents from potential health risks associated with low-level Pb exposure.HighlightsGenetic polymorphisms may increase adverse effects of Pb on neurobehavioral processes.We studied 330 participants of the Casa Pia Dental Amalgams Trial in Children.Adverse interactions were found with variants of GRIN2A and GRIN2B in boys.Our results implicate genetic factors in defining susceptibility to Pb neurotoxicity.

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