Environ Toxicol. 2017 Mar;32(3):869-876. doi: 10.1002/tox.22286. Epub 2016 Jun 3.
OBJECTIVES: The vestibular system allows the perception of position and motion and its dysfunction presents as motion impairment, vertigo and balance abnormalities, leading to debilitating psychological discomfort and difficulty performing daily tasks. Although declines and deficits in vestibular function have been noted in rats exposed to lead (Pb) and in humans exposed to Pb and cadmium (Cd), no studies have directly examined the pathological and pathophysiological effects upon the vestibular apparatus of the inner ear.
METHODS: Eighteen young adult mice were exposed through their drinking water (3 mM Pb, 300 µM Cd, or a control treatment) for 10 weeks. Before and after treatment, they underwent a vestibular assessment, consisting of a rotarod performance test and a novel head stability test to measure the vestibulocolic reflex. At the conclusion of the study, the utricles were analyzed immunohistologically for condition of hair cells and nerve fibers.
RESULTS: Increased levels of Pb exposure correlated with decreased head stability in space; no significant decline in performance on rotarod test was found. No damage to the hair cells or the nerve fibers of the utricle was observed in histology.
CONCLUSIONS: The young adult CBA/CaJ mouse is able to tolerate occupationally-relevant Pb and Cd exposure well, but the correlation between Pb exposure and reduced head stability suggests that Pb exposure causes a decline in vestibular function. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Environ Toxicol, 2016. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Environ Toxicol 32: 869-876, 2017.