Involvement of Microglia Activation in the Lead Induced Long-Term Potentiation Impairment

<div><p>Exposure of Lead (Pb), a known neurotoxicant, can impair spatial learning and memory probably via impairing the hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP) as well as hippocampal neuronal injury. Activation of hippocampal microglia also impairs spatial learning and memory. Thus, we raised the hypothesis that activation of microglia is involved in the Pb exposure induced hippocampal LTP impairment and neuronal injury. To test this hypothesis and clarify its underlying mechanisms, we investigated the Pb-exposure on the microglia activation, cytokine release, hippocampal LTP level as well as neuronal injury in <em>in vivo</em> or <em>in vitro</em> model. The changes of these parameters were also observed after pretreatment with minocycline, a microglia activation inhibitor. Long-term low dose Pb exposure (100 ppm for 8 weeks) caused significant reduction of LTP in acute slice preparations, meanwhile, such treatment also significantly increased hippocampal microglia activation as well as neuronal injury. <em>In vitro</em> Pb-exposure also induced significantly increase of microglia activation, up-regulate the release of cytokines including tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), interleukin-1β (IL-1β) and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) in microglia culture alone as well as neuronal injury in the co-culture with hippocampal neurons. Inhibiting the microglia activation with minocycline significantly reversed the above-mentioned Pb-exposure induced changes. Our results showed that Pb can cause microglia activation, which can up-regulate the level of IL-1β, TNF-α and iNOS, these proinflammatory factors may cause hippocampal neuronal injury as well as LTP deficits.</p> </div>