Even though neuronal toxicity due to organomercury compounds is well known, thimerosal, an organomercury compound, is widely used in pediatric vaccine preservation. In the present study, we examined whether embryonic exposure to thimerosal affects early development of serotonergic neurons. Thimerosal (1mg Hg/kg) was intramuscularly administered to pregnant rats on gestational day 9 (susceptible time window for development of fetal serotonergic system), and fetal serotonergic neurons were assessed at embryonic day 15 using anti-serotonin antibodies. A dramatic increase in the number of serotonergic neurons localized to the lateral portion of the caudal raphe was observed in thimerosal group (1.9-fold increase, p<0.01 compared to control). These results indicate that embryonic exposure to thimerosal affects early development of serotonergic neurons.
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