Exposure to high manganese (Mn) levels may damage the basal ganglia, leading to a syndrome analogous to Parkinson's disease, with motor and cognitive impairments. The molecular mechanisms underlying Mn neurotoxicity, particularly during development, still deserve further investigation. Herein, we addressed whether early-life Mn exposure affects motor coordination and cognitive function in adulthood and potential underlying mechanisms. Male Wistar rats were exposed intraperitoneally to saline (control) or MnCl2 (5, 10 or 20 mg/kg/day) from post-natal day (PND) 8-12. Behavioral tests were performed on PND 60-65 and biochemical analysis in the striatum and hippocampus were performed on PND14 or PND70. Rats exposed to Mn (10 and 20 mg/kg) performed significantly worse on the rotarod test than controls indicating motor coordination and balance impairments. The object and social recognition tasks were used to evaluate short-term memory. Rats exposed to the highest Mn dose failed to recognize a familiar object when replaced by a novel object as well as to recognize a familiar juvenile rat after a short period of time. However, Mn did not alter olfactory discrimination ability. In addition, Mn-treated rats displayed decreased levels of non-protein thiols (e.g. glutathione) and increased levels of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) in the striatum. Moreover, Mn significantly increased hippocampal glutathione peroxidase (GPx) activity. These findings demonstrate that acute low-level exposure to Mn during a critical neurodevelopmental period causes cognitive and motor dysfunctions that last into adulthood, that are accompanied by alterations in antioxidant defense system in both the hippocampus and striatum.
Keywords: Cognition; Development; Manganese; Motor coordination; Neurotoxicity.
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