Cocaine sensitization in adult Long-Evans rats perinatally exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls


Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are ubiquitous environmental toxicants known to adversely affect the nervous system and more specifically the dopamine system. Developmental PCB exposure in rats has been shown to produce alterations in dopaminergic signaling that persist into adulthood. The reinforcing properties of psychostimulants are typically modulated via the dopaminergic system, so this project used a behavioral sensitization paradigm to evaluate whether perinatal PCB exposure altered sensitization to the psychostimulant cocaine. Long-Evans rats were perinatally exposed to 0, 3 or 6 mg/kg/day of PCBs throughout gestation and lactation. One male and female pup from each litter was retained for behavioral testing. Both horizontal and vertical activity were used to measure cocaine sensitization following repeated injections of 10 mg/kg cocaine (IP) on post-natal day (PND) 91–96 and again after a week in the home cage on PND 103. A final locomotor activity session following a challenge injection of 20 mg/kg was given on PND 110 to further evaluate the availability of presynaptic dopamine stores. The PCB-exposed rats appeared to be pre-sensitized to cocaine as they exhibited a greater degree of cocaine-induced locomotor activation to the initial injections of cocaine and therefore demonstrated a more rapid onset of cocaine behavioral sensitization compared to non-exposed controls. These results add to the literature detailing how perinatal exposure to dopamine-disrupting contaminants can change the developing brain, thereby producing permanent changes in the neurobehavioral response to psychostimulants later in life.

Publication Title

Neurotoxicology and Teratology