Radial arm maze performance in rats following gestational and lactational exposure to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD)

Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2000 Jul-Aug;22(4):511-9. doi: 10.1016/s0892-0362(00)00070-2.


Recently, we reported that in utero and lactational exposure to 2,3, 7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) resulted in a task-specific reduction of errors on the radial arm maze (RAM), without similar improvements on other spatial learning tasks including the Morris water maze. The effect was more pronounced in males than in females. This study further investigated the effects of in utero and lactational exposure to TCDD on RAM performance by testing male and female TCDD-exposed rats on either an eight-arm RAM with all arms baited or a 12-arm RAM with 8 of the 12 arms baited. If the rats have improved spatial learning or memory on the RAM, then they should be improved on both RAM tasks; whereas, if they are using adjacent arm selection or some other response strategy to solve the task, they should not show enhanced performance on the 12-arm RAM where not all the arms are rewarded. Time-mated Sprague-Dawley dams were gavaged with corn oil vehicle or one of two doses of TCDD in vehicle (0.1 or 0.2 microg/kg body weight) on gestational days 10 to 16. Litters were culled to eight on day 2 and weaned on day 21. Beginning on day 80, one male and female from each litter was tested on the eight-arm RAM with all arms baited. As in our previous studies, the 0.1-microg/kg TCDD-exposed male rats showed a significant decrease in the number of errors. However, the 0.2-microg/kg males did not differ from the controls. Neither group of TCDD-exposed females differed from the controls. None of the TCDD-exposed rats differed from the controls in adjacent arm selection behavior. An additional male and female from each litter were tested on the 12-arm RAM with only 8 of the 12 arms baited. In this task, neither TCDD group differed from the controls. These results suggest that the reduction of errors on the eight-arm RAM may be due to increased response patterning or use of intramaze cues rather than to improved spatial learning or memory. Also, the reduction in errors was only present at the lower dose of TCDD suggesting that the improvement in performance is only present at very low, nonovertly toxic doses of TCDD.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Lactation
  • Litter Size / drug effects
  • Liver / growth & development
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / drug effects*
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Organ Size / drug effects
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / toxicity*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sex Factors
  • Space Perception / drug effects
  • Thymus Gland / growth & development


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins