Combined exposure to carbon disulfide and low-frequency noise reversibly affects vestibular function

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Chronic occupational exposure to carbon disulfide (CS2) has debilitating motor and sensory effects in humans, which can increase the risk of falls. Although no mention of vestibulotoxic effects is contained in the literature, epidemiological and experimental data suggest that CS2 could cause low-frequency hearing loss when associated with noise exposure. Low-frequency noise might also perturb the peripheral balance receptor through an as-yet unclear mechanism. Here, we studied how exposure to a low-frequency noise combined with 250-ppm CS2 affected balance in rats. Vestibular function was tested based on post-rotary nystagmus recorded by a video-oculography system. These measurements were completed by behavioral tests and analysis of the cerebellum to measure expression levels for gene expression associated with neurotoxicity. Assays were performed prior to and following a 4-week exposure, and again after a 4-week recovery period. Functional measurements were completed by histological analyses of the peripheral organs.Nystagmus was unaltered by exposure to noise alone, while CS2 alone caused a moderate 19% decrease of the saccade number. In contrast, coexposure to 250-ppm CS2 and low-frequency noise decreased both saccade number and duration by 33% and 34%, respectively. After four weeks, recovery was only partial but measures were not significantly different from pre-exposure values. Real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) analysis of cerebellar tissue revealed a slight but significant modification in expression levels for two genes linked to neurotoxicity in CS2-exposed animals. However, neither histopathological changes to the peripheral receptor nor behavioral differences were observed. Based on all these results, we propose that the effects of CS2 were due to reversible neurochemical disturbance of the efferent pathways managing post-rotatory nystagmus. Because the nervous structures involving the vestibular function appear particularly sensitive to CS2, post-rotary nystagmus could be used as an early, non-invasive measurement to diagnose CS2 intoxication as part of an occupational conservation program.

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