Environmental influences, such as chemical exposure, have long been considered potential risk factors for neurodegenerative disorders, including neuromuscular diseases. However, no definitive links between environmental chemical exposure and a pathogenic mechanism of neurodegenerative disease has yet been established. In this study, we describe that exposure to arsenic, an environmental pollutant naturally found in drinking water, induces neuronal cell death and alteration of morphology, particularly neurite outgrowth and in the cytoskeleton of neurons. Since progressive cell loss accompanied by the alteration of neuronal structures and cytoskeleton is considered the major pathologic feature of neurodegenerative disorders, arsenic-induced neurotoxicity might contribute to an etiologic mechanism of some neurodegenerative diseases. Further, we discuss the importance of in vitro assay, particularly an embryonic toxicity test, for assessing the neurotoxicity of chemicals, because most of chemicals found in our environment remain to be evaluated regarding their neurotoxicity risk for neurodegenerative diseases.
2015 The Pharmaceutical Society of Japan