Lead exposure reduces survival, neuronal determination, and differentiation of P19 stem cells

Neurotoxicol Teratol. Mar-Apr 2019;72:58-70. doi: 10.1016/j.ntt.2019.01.005. Epub 2019 Feb 15.


Lead (Pb) is a teratogen that poses health risks after acute and chronic exposure. Lead is deposited in the bones of adults and is continuously leached into the blood for decades. While this chronic lead exposure can have detrimental effects on adults such as high blood pressure and kidney damage, developing fetuses and young children are particularly vulnerable. During pregnancy, bone-deposited lead is released into the blood at increased rates and can cross the placental barrier, exposing the embryo to the toxin. Embryos exposed to lead display serious developmental and cognitive defects throughout life. Although studies have investigated lead's effect on late-stage embryos, few studies have examined how lead affects stem cell determination and differentiation. For example, it is unknown whether lead is more detrimental to neuronal determination or differentiation of stem cells. We sought to determine the effect of lead on the determination and differentiation of pluripotent embryonic testicular carcinoma (P19) cells into neurons. Our data indicate that lead exposure significantly inhibits the determination of P19 cells to the neuronal lineage by alteration of N-cadherin and Sox2 expression. We also observed that lead significantly alters subsequent neuronal and glial differentiation. Consequently, this research emphasizes the need to reduce public exposure to lead.

Keywords: Determination; Differentiation; Lead toxicity; Stem cell survival.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cadherins / genetics
  • Cadherins / metabolism*
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Embryonal Carcinoma Stem Cells / drug effects*
  • Embryonal Carcinoma Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / drug effects
  • Lead / toxicity*
  • Mice
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • SOXB1 Transcription Factors / genetics
  • SOXB1 Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Teratogens / toxicity*


  • Cadherins
  • Cdh2 protein, mouse
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • SOXB1 Transcription Factors
  • Sox2 protein, mouse
  • Teratogens
  • Lead