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      Lineage- and Sex-Dependent Behavioral and Biochemical Transgenerational Consequences of Developmental Exposure to Lead, Prenatal Stress, and Combined Lead and Prenatal Stress in Mice


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          Lead (Pb) exposure and prenatal stress (PS) during development are co-occurring risk factors with shared biological substrates. PS has been associated with transgenerational passage of altered behavioral phenotypes, whereas the transgenerational behavioral or biochemical consequences of Pb exposure, and modification of any such effects by PS, is unknown.


          The present study sought to determine whether Pb, PS, or combined Pb and PS exposures produced adverse transgenerational consequences on brain and behavior.


          Maternal Pb and PS exposures were carried out in F0 mice. Outside breeders were used at each subsequent breeding, producing four F1-F2 lineages: [F1 female-F2 female (FF), FM (male), MF, and MM]. F3 offspring were generated from each of these lineages and examined for outcomes previously found to be altered by Pb, PS, or combined Pb and PS in F1 offspring: behavioral performance [fixed-interval (FI) schedule of food reward, locomotor activity, and anxiety-like behavior], dopamine function [striatal expression of tyrosine hydroxylase (Th)], glucocorticoid receptor (GR) and plasma corticosterone, as well as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and total percent DNA methylation of Th and Bdnf genes in the frontal cortex and hippocampus.


          Maternal F0 Pb exposure produced runting in F3 offspring. Considered across lineages, F3 females exhibited Pb-related alterations in behavior, striatal BDNF levels, frontal cortical Th total percentage DNA methylation levels and serum corticosterone levels, whereas F3 males showed Pb- and PS-related alterations in behavior and total percent DNA methylation of hippocampal Bdnf. However, numerous lineage-specific effects were observed, most of greater magnitude than those observed across lineages, with outcomes differing by F3 sex.


          These findings support the possibility that exposures of previous generations to Pb or PS may influence the brain and behavior of future generations. Observed changes were sex-dependent, with F3 females showing multiple changes through Pb-exposed lineages. Lineage effects may occur through maternal responses to pregnancy, altered maternal behavior, epigenetic modifications, or a combination of mechanisms, but they have significant public health ramifications regardless of mechanism. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP4977

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          Low-Level Environmental Lead Exposure and Children’s Intellectual Function: An International Pooled Analysis

          Lead is a confirmed neurotoxin, but questions remain about lead-associated intellectual deficits at blood lead levels < 10 μg/dL and whether lower exposures are, for a given change in exposure, associated with greater deficits. The objective of this study was to examine the association of intelligence test scores and blood lead concentration, especially for children who had maximal measured blood lead levels < 10 μg/dL. We examined data collected from 1,333 children who participated in seven international population-based longitudinal cohort studies, followed from birth or infancy until 5–10 years of age. The full-scale IQ score was the primary outcome measure. The geometric mean blood lead concentration of the children peaked at 17.8 μg/dL and declined to 9.4 μg/dL by 5–7 years of age; 244 (18%) children had a maximal blood lead concentration < 10 μg/dL, and 103 (8%) had a maximal blood lead concentration < 7.5 μg/dL. After adjustment for covariates, we found an inverse relationship between blood lead concentration and IQ score. Using a log-linear model, we found a 6.9 IQ point decrement [95% confidence interval (CI), 4.2–9.4] associated with an increase in concurrent blood lead levels from 2.4 to 30 μg/dL. The estimated IQ point decrements associated with an increase in blood lead from 2.4 to 10 μg/dL, 10 to 20 μg/dL, and 20 to 30 μg/dL were 3.9 (95% CI, 2.4–5.3), 1.9 (95% CI, 1.2–2.6), and 1.1 (95% CI, 0.7–1.5), respectively. For a given increase in blood lead, the lead-associated intellectual decrement for children with a maximal blood lead level < 7.5 μg/dL was significantly greater than that observed for those with a maximal blood lead level ≥7.5 μg/dL (p = 0.015). We conclude that environmental lead exposure in children who have maximal blood lead levels < 7.5 μg/dL is associated with intellectual deficits.
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            Intellectual impairment in children with blood lead concentrations below 10 microg per deciliter.

            Despite dramatic declines in children's blood lead concentrations and a lowering of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's level of concern to 10 microg per deciliter (0.483 micromol per liter), little is known about children's neurobehavioral functioning at lead concentrations below this level. We measured blood lead concentrations in 172 children at 6, 12, 18, 24, 36, 48, and 60 months of age and administered the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale at the ages of 3 and 5 years. The relation between IQ and blood lead concentration was estimated with the use of linear and nonlinear mixed models, with adjustment for maternal IQ, quality of the home environment, and other potential confounders. The blood lead concentration was inversely and significantly associated with IQ. In the linear model, each increase of 10 microg per deciliter in the lifetime average blood lead concentration was associated with a 4.6-point decrease in IQ (P=0.004), whereas for the subsample of 101 children whose maximal lead concentrations remained below 10 microg per deciliter, the change in IQ associated with a given change in lead concentration was greater. When estimated in a nonlinear model with the full sample, IQ declined by 7.4 points as lifetime average blood lead concentrations increased from 1 to 10 microg per deciliter. Blood lead concentrations, even those below 10 microg per deciliter, are inversely associated with children's IQ scores at three and five years of age, and associated declines in IQ are greater at these concentrations than at higher concentrations. These findings suggest that more U.S. children may be adversely affected by environmental lead than previously estimated. Copyright 2003 Massachusetts Medical Society
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              The Darwinian concept of stress: benefits of allostasis and costs of allostatic load and the trade-offs in health and disease.

              Why do we get the stress-related diseases we do? Why do some people have flare ups of autoimmune disease, whereas others suffer from melancholic depression during a stressful period in their life? In the present review possible explanations will be given by using different levels of analysis. First, we explain in evolutionary terms why different organisms adopt different behavioral strategies to cope with stress. It has become clear that natural selection maintains a balance of different traits preserving genes for high aggression (Hawks) and low aggression (Doves) within a population. The existence of these personality types (Hawks-Doves) is widespread in the animal kingdom, not only between males and females but also within the same gender across species. Second, proximate (causal) explanations are given for the different stress responses and how they work. Hawks and Doves differ in underlying physiology and these differences are associated with their respective behavioral strategies; for example, bold Hawks preferentially adopt the fight-flight response when establishing a new territory or defending an existing territory, while cautious Doves show the freeze-hide response to adapt to threats in their environment. Thus, adaptive processes that actively maintain stability through change (allostasis) depend on the personality type and the associated stress responses. Third, we describe how the expression of the various stress responses can result in specific benefits to the organism. Fourth, we discuss how the benefits of allostasis and the costs of adaptation (allostatic load) lead to different trade-offs in health and disease, thereby reinforcing a Darwinian concept of stress. Collectively, this provides some explanation of why individuals may differ in their vulnerability to different stress-related diseases and how this relates to the range of personality types, especially aggressive Hawks and non-aggressive Doves in a population. A conceptual framework is presented showing that Hawks, due to inefficient management of mediators of allostasis, are more likely to be violent, to develop impulse control disorders, hypertension, cardiac arrhythmias, sudden death, atypical depression, chronic fatigue states and inflammation. In contrast, Doves, due to the greater release of mediators of allostasis (surplus), are more susceptible to anxiety disorders, metabolic syndromes, melancholic depression, psychotic states and infection.

                Author and article information

                Environ Health Perspect
                Environ. Health Perspect
                Environmental Health Perspectives
                Environmental Health Perspectives
                5 February 2020
                February 2020
                : 128
                : 2
                [1 ]Department of Environmental Medicine, University of Rochester School of Medicine , Rochester, New York, USA
                Author notes
                Address correspondence to Deborah Cory-Slechta, Department of Environmental Medicine, Box EHSC, University of Rochester Medical School, Rochester, NY 14642 USA. Email: deborah_cory-slechta@ 123456urmc.rochester.edu

                EHP is an open-access journal published with support from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health. All content is public domain unless otherwise noted.


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