Pregnant Sprague-Dawley rats were treated by gavage with a single dose of 8 mg/kg of methyl mercury on gestational day 15. Offspring of control and treated rats were killed at 14, 21 and 60 days of age. The binding characteristics of muscarinic receptors labelled in cortical membrane preparation by H-3-L-quinuclidinyl benzilate were studied together with the assessment of mercury level in the same brain area. Furthermore, the performance in passive avoidance tasks was evaluated in 8 weeks old rats. Perinatal exposure to methyl mercury significantly reduced the maximum number of muscarinic receptors (Bmax) in the brain of 14 (53%) and 21 day old rats (21%), while this change was no more present in 60 day old rats. This phenomenon seems to be strictly related to the presence of mercury in the cortex since it disappeared with the normalization of mercury levels in the brain. Despite the recovery of muscarinic receptor densities in methyl mercury exposed rats at 8 weeks of age, the avoidance latency was reduced in passive avoidance test as an indication of learning and memory deficits in these animals. Results from this study indicate that prenatal methyl mercury exposure induces latent cognitive dysfunction which does not seem to be related to transient muscarinic receptor alteration found in the early period of postnatal life.
METHYL MERCURY DURING LATE-GESTATION AFFECTS TEMPORARILY THE DEVELOPMENT OF CORTICAL MUSCARINIC RECEPTORS IN RAT OFFSPRING / Zanoli, Paola; C., Truzzi; C., Veneri; Braghiroli, Daniela; Baraldi, Mario. - In: PHARMACOLOGY & TOXICOLOGY. - ISSN 0901-9928. - 75:(1994), pp. 261-264.