Analytical evidence of heterogeneous lead accumulation in the hypothalamic defence area and nucleus tractus solitarius

D. Guimaraes, J. P. Santos, M. L. Carvalho, M. S. Diniz, B. House, V. M. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Lead is a potent toxicant associated with adverse cardiovascular effects and hypertension in children. Yet, few studies have determined if autonomic dysfunction associated with lead exposure involves brain regions which regulate autonomic responses. Central autonomic nuclei such as the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS) and hypothalamic defence area (HDA) may be particularly sensitive to lead infiltration because they are adjacent to ventricles and areas with semi-permeable blood-brain-barriers. To understand if autonomic nuclei are sensitive to lead accumulation Wistar rats were exposed to lead from the gestational period and lead levels were quantified in brain regions that regulate arterial pressure: the NTS and the HDA. Energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence (EDXRF) was used to quantify total brain lead levels and revealed no differences between exposed and control tissues; measured values were close to the detection limit (2 mu g/g). Electrothermal atomic absorption spectrometry (ETAAS) was also used, which has a greater sensitivity, to quantify lead. There was similar to 2.1 mu g/g lead in the NTS and similar to 3.1 mu g/g lead in the HDA of exposed rats, and no lead in the control rats. There were greater lead levels in the HDA (similar to 50%) as compared with the NTS. Pathology studies revealed more prominent lead granules in the HDA as compared with the NTS. Increased microglia and astrocyte activation was also noted in the NTS of lead exposed rats as compared with the HDA. Regional differences in neuro-inflammatory responses likely contribute to heterogeneous lead accumulation, with enhanced clearance of lead in the NTS. Future studies will resolve the mechanisms underpinning tissue-specific lead accumulation. (C) 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-97
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2014


  • Electrothermal atomic absorption
  • spectrometry (ETAAS)
  • Lead
  • Autonomic
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS)
  • Hypothalamic defence area (HDA)


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