Changes in mitogen-activated protein kinase in cerebellar granule neurons by polybrominated diphenyl ethers and polychlorinated biphenyls

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Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are used as additive flame retardants and have been detected in human blood, adipose tissue, and breast milk. Both in vitro and in vivo studies have shown that the effects of PBDEs are similar to the known human developmental neurotoxicants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) on a molar basis. Previously, we reported that PBDE mixtures and congeners, perturbed calcium homeostasis which is critical for the development and function of the nervous system. In the present study, we tested whether environmentally relevant PBDE/PCB mixtures and congeners affected mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways, which are down-stream events of calcium signaling in cerebellar granule neuronal cultures. In this study, phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated kinase (pERK)1/2, a widely studied MAPK cascade and known to be involved in learning and memory, levels were quantitated using western blot technique with phospho-specific antibodies. Glutamate (a positive control) increased pERK1/2 in a time- and concentration-dependent manner reaching maximum activation at 5–30 min of exposure and at doses ≥10 μM. Both Aroclor 1254 (a commercial penta PCB mixture) and DE-71 (a commercial penta PBDE mixture) elevated phospho-ERK1/2, producing maximum stimulation at 30 min and at concentrations ≥3 μg/ml; Aroclor 1254 was more efficacious than DE-71. DE-79 (an octabrominated diphenyl ether mixture) also elevated phospho-ERK1/2, but to a lesser extent than that of DE-71. PBDE congeners 47, 77, 99, and 153 also increased phospo-ERK1/2 in a concentration-dependent manner. The data indicated that PBDE congeners are more potent than the commercial mixtures. PCB 47 also increased phospho-ERK1/2 like its structural analog PBDE 47, but to a lesser extent, suggesting that these chemicals affect similar pathways. Cytotoxicity, measured as %LDH release, data showed that higher concentrations (>30 μM) and longer exposures (>30 min) are required to see cell death. These results show that PBDE mixtures and congeners activate MAPK pathway at concentrations where no significant cytotoxicity was observed, suggesting that perturbed intracellular signaling including MAPK pathway might be involved in the initiation of adverse effects, including learning and memory, related to these persistent chemicals.

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