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Low-level developmental lead exposure does not predispose to adult alcohol self-administration, but does increase the risk of relapsing to alcohol seeking in mice: Contrasting role of GLT1 and xCT brain expression

Rangel-Barajas C, Coronel I, Zhang Y, Hern├índez M, Boehm S (2020) Neuropharmacology 2020 Oct 1;181 doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2020.108339 

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Lead (Pb) is a neurotoxic heavy metal pollutant. Despite the efforts to reduce Pb environmental exposure and to prevent Pb poisoning, exposure in human populations persists. Studies of adults with history of childhood lead exposure have consistently demonstrated cognitive impairments that have been associated with sustained glutamate signaling. Additionally, some clinical studies have also found correlations between Pb exposure and increased proclivity to drug addiction. Thus, here we sought to investigate if developmental Pb exposure can increase propensity to alcohol consumption and relapse using an alcohol self-administration paradigm. Because Pb exposure is associated with increased glutamatergic tone, we also studied the effects on the expression of synaptic and non-synaptic glutamate transporters in brain regions associated with drug addiction such as the nucleus accumbens (NAc), dorsomedial striatum (DMS), dorsolateral striatum (DLS), and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). We found that while developmental Pb exposure did not increase risk for alcohol self-administration, it did play a role in relapsing to alcohol. The effects were associated with differential expression of the glutamate transporter 1 (GLT1) and the glutamate/cystine antiporter (xCT). In the NAc and DLS the expression of GLT1 was found to be significantly reduced, while no changes were found in DMS or mPFC. Contrastingly, xCT was found to be upregulated in NAc but downregulated in DLS, with no changes in DMS or mPFC. Our data suggest that lead exposure is involved in relapse to alcohol seeking, an effect that could be associated with downregulation of GLT1 and xCT in the DLS.


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