Olfactory recognition memory is disrupted in young mice with chronic low-level lead exposure

Toxicol Lett. 2015 Jul 2;236(1):69-74. doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2015.04.013. Epub 2015 Apr 29.


Chronic developmental lead exposure yielding very low blood lead burden is an unresolved child public health problem. Few studies have attempted to model neurobehavioral changes in young animals following very low level exposure, and studies are needed to identify tests that are sensitive to the neurobehavioral changes that may occur. Mechanisms of action are not yet known however results have suggested that hippocampus/dentate gyrus may be uniquely vulnerable to early chronic low-level lead exposure. This study examined the sensitivity of a novel odor recognition task to differences in pre-adolescent C57BL/6J mice chronically exposed from birth to PND 28, to 0 ppm (control), 30 ppm (low-dose), or 330 ppm (higher-dose) lead acetate (N=33). Blood lead levels (BLLs) determined by ICP-MS ranged from 0.02 to 20.31 μg/dL. Generalized linear mixed model analyses with litter as a random effect showed a significant interaction of BLL×sex. As BLLs increased olfactory recognition memory decreased in males. Among females, non-linear effects were observed at lower but not higher levels of lead exposure. The novel odor detection task is sensitive to effects associated with early chronic low-level lead exposure in young C57BL/6J mice.

Keywords: Dentate gyrus; Developmental lead exposure; Neurobehavioral toxicity; Olfactory recognition memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Exploratory Behavior / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lactation*
  • Lead / administration & dosage
  • Lead / blood
  • Lead / pharmacokinetics
  • Lead / toxicity
  • Lead Poisoning, Nervous System, Childhood / blood
  • Lead Poisoning, Nervous System, Childhood / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Memory Disorders / etiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Olfactory Perception / drug effects*
  • Organometallic Compounds / administration & dosage
  • Organometallic Compounds / blood
  • Organometallic Compounds / pharmacokinetics
  • Organometallic Compounds / toxicity
  • Sex Characteristics


  • Organometallic Compounds
  • Lead
  • lead acetate