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Studies with neuronal cells: From basic studies of mechanisms of neurotoxicity to the prediction of chemical toxicity

Author(s): Sunol C, Babot Z, Fonfria E, Galofre M, Garcia D, et al.


Neurotoxicology considers that chemicals perturb neurological functions by interfering with the structure or function of neural pathways, circuits and systems. Using in vitro methods for neurotoxicity studies should include evaluation of specific targets for the functionalism of the nervous system and general cellular targets. In this review we present the neuronal characteristics of primary cultures of cortical neurons and of cerebellar granule cells and their use in neurotoxicity studies. Primary cultures of cortical neurons are constituted by around 40% of GABAergic neurons, whereas primary cultures of cerebellar granule cells are mainly constituted by glutamatergic neurons. Both cultures express functional GABAA and ionotropic glutamate receptors. We present neurotoxicity studies performed in these cell cultures, where specific neural targets related to GABA and glutamate neurotransmission are evaluated. The effects of convulsant polychlorocycloalkane pesticides on the GABAA, glycine and NMDA receptors points to the GABAA receptor as the neural target that accounts for their in vivo acute toxicity, whereas NMDA disturbance might be relevant for long-term toxicity. Several compounds from a list of reference compounds, whose severe human poisoning result in convulsions, inhibited the GABAA receptor. We also present cell proteomic studies showing that the neurotoxic contaminant methylmercury affect mitochondrial proteins. We conclude that the in vitro assays that have been developed can be useful for their inclusion in an in vitro test battery to predict human toxicity.

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