Neurodegeneration, demyelination, and astrogliosis in rat spinal cord by chronic lead treatment

Cell Biol Int. 2019 Jun;43(6):706-714. doi: 10.1002/cbin.11147. Epub 2019 May 11.


Early exposure to lead (Pb) has been associated with an elevated risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases. There is evidence that neuronal damage in chronic Pb exposure can be caused by the convergence of glial damage. Apoptosis may be a possible mechanism of Pb-induced cell death in the central nervous system. We tested cellular damage and apoptosis in the spinal cord of Wistar rats treated with Pb. Twelve rats were divided into two groups (n = 6): the control group was treated with only drinking water and the other group received 500 ppm of Pb acetate. After 3 months of Pb treatment, all animals were euthanized and spinal cords were extracted. Morphology was evaluated by Nissl and Kluver-Barrera stainings. Apoptosis was detected by terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling assay. Specific antibodies were used to evaluate Pb damage in oligodendrocytes, astrocytes, and microglia. A large number of apoptotic bodies was observed in the white matter of the Pb-treated group. The Pb-treated group also showed a reduced number of neurons and oligodendrocytes but had an increased number of astrocytes compared with the nontreated group. Our results demonstrate that chronic Pb treatment induces neurodegeneration, demyelination, and astrogliosis in the rat spinal cord.

Keywords: apoptosis; demyelination; glia; lead treatment; spinal cord.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Astrocytoma / metabolism
  • Astrocytoma / physiopathology
  • Cell Death / physiology
  • Demyelinating Diseases / metabolism
  • Demyelinating Diseases / physiopathology
  • Lead / adverse effects*
  • Lead Poisoning / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Oligodendroglia / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Spinal Cord / drug effects*
  • Spinal Cord / metabolism
  • Spinal Cord / physiopathology


  • Lead