Prenatal and early postnatal lead exposure in mice: neuroimaging findings

Diana M. Lindquist, Travis Beckwith, Kim M. Cecil, Francisco Javier Sánchez-Martín, Julio Landero-Figueroa, Alvaro Puga


Background: Childhood lead exposure has been linked to adult gray matter loss accompanied by changes in myelination and neurochemistry noninvasively revealed by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methods. However, the extent, duration and timing of lead exposure required to produce such imaging changes in humans are difficult to ascertain.
Methods: To determine if such changes are related to early exposure to low levels of lead, we treated mouse dams with 0, 3, or 30 ppm of lead acetate in drinking water for 2 months prior to mating through gestation until weaning of the offspring at post-natal day 21. Two male and two female pups from each litter were imaged at post-natal day 60. Volumetric, diffusion tensor imaging and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) measurements were obtained using a seven Tesla Bruker animal MRI scanner.
Results: Postnatal blood lead levels were identical between groups at the time of imaging. No effects of lead exposure were detected in the volumetric or MRS data. Mean diffusivity in the hippocampus showed significant effects of lead exposure and gender.
Conclusions: These data suggest that low-level, gestational lead exposure in a mouse model produces minimal changes observed by MRI.