Lead is known to induce neurotoxicity, particularly in young children, and GluR2, an AMPA-type glutamate receptor subunit, plays an important role in neuronal cell survival. Therefore, we hypothesized that altered GluR2 expression plays a role in lead-induced neuronal cell death. To test this idea, we investigated the effect of exposure to 5 and 20 µM lead for 1-9 days on the viability and GluR2 expression of primary-cultured rat cortical neurons. The number of trypan-blue stained cells was increased by exposure to 5 µM lead for 9 days or 20 µM lead for 7-9 days, and LDH release was increased after exposure to 20 µM lead for 9 days. GluR2 expression was reduced by exposure to 5-100 µM lead, but not 0.1-1 µM lead, for 9 days. Immunocytochemistry also confirmed that GluR2 expression was decreased in the presence of lead. Application of 50 ng/ml brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) led to a recovery of lead-induced neuronal cell death, accompanied with increased GluR2 expression. Our results suggest that long-term exposure to lead induces neuronal cell death, in association with a decrease of GluR2 expression.
2013 The Japanese Society of Toxicology