ATLA 32.4, October 2004

//ATLA 32.4, October 2004

Neurotoxicology: Principles and Considerations of In Vitro Assessment

Michael Aschner and Tore Syversen

Neurotoxicology is an exciting area of science, not only because of the importance of toxic injury to the nervous system in human disease, but also because specific toxicants have served as invaluable tools for the advancement of our knowledge of “normal” neurobiological processes. In fact, much of our understanding of the organisation and function of the nervous system is based on observations derived from the actions of neurotoxicants. This paper addresses various physiological aspects behind the exquisite sensitivity of the nervous system to toxic agents, including the privileged status of the nervous system visà-vis blood-brain barrier function, the extensions of the nervous system over space and the requirements of cells with such a complex geometry, and the transmission of information across extracellular space. In addition, in vitro models and their utility in the assessment of neurotoxicological outcome are discussed, with reference to both their advantages and disadvantages.
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Organotypic Brain Slice Cultures: An Efficient and Reliable Method for Neurotoxicological Screening and Mechanistic Studies

Jens Noraberg

This paper reviews the current state of the use of organotypic brain slice cultures for neurotoxicological and neuropharmacological screening and mechanistic studies, as exemplified by excitotoxin application. At present, no in vitro systems have been approved by the regulatory authorities for neurotoxicity testing. For the evaluation of the slice culture method, organotypic hippocampal slice cultures were exposed to toxic doses of the excitotoxins, glutamate, N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA), kainic acid and 2-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionate (AMPA), and the glial toxin, DL-α-aminoadipic acid (DLAAA). Neuronal cell death was quantified by propidium iodide (PI) uptake, and visualised by Fluoro-Jade (FJ) staining. General cell death was monitored by lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) release into the culture medium. EC50 values for the different compounds, based on PI uptake after exposure for 48 hours in entire cultures, were: glutamate, 3.5mM; DL-AAA, 2.3mM; kainic acid, 13μM; NMDA, 11μM; and AMPA, 3.7μM. In the slice cultures, the hippocampal subfields displayed the same differences in vulnerability as those observed in vivo. When subfield analysis was performed on the cultures, the CA1 subfield was most susceptible to glutamate, NMDA and AMPA, while CA3 was most susceptible to kainic acid. The amount of LDH release for DL-AAA was about four times that of L-glutamate, in accordance with the additional toxic effect on glial cells, which was also found by confocal microscopy to stain for FJ. In conclusion, it was found that organotypic brain slice culture, combined with standardised protocols and quantifiable markers, such as PI and FJ staining, is a relevant and feasible in vitro system for neurotoxicity testing. Considering the amount and quality of the available published data, it is recommended that the brain slice culture method could be subjected to pre-validation and formal validation for inclusion in a tiered in vitro neurotoxicity testing scheme to supplement and replace conventional animal tests.
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Development of a Sensory Neuronal Cell Model for the Estimation of Mild Eye Irritation

Johanna Lilja and Anna Forsby

In an attempt to improve the in vitro test strategy for the estimation of eye irritation, a neuronal cell model has been developed, with cells expressing vanilloid receptor type 1 (VR1) nociceptors. The currently accepted method for measuring eye irritancy is the ethically and scientifically criticised Draize rabbit eye test, despite the fact that alternative in vitro methods are available which have proved to be reliable and reproducible for predicting severe ocular toxicity. However, no alternative tests for measuring neuronal stimulation have yet been developed, and the prediction of eye irritation in the mild range is therefore insufficient. VR1 is a nociceptor localised in C-fibre neurons innervating the cornea and the surrounding tissue, and it responds to potentially damaging stimuli by releasing Ca2+ into the cytoplasm. As a sensory endpoint, [Ca2+]i was measured in VR1 transfected cells, as well as in control cells. Short-term cell cytotoxicity studies (cell membrane rupture and morphological divergence) were used to determine the non-corrosive concentrations of the test chemicals. Preliminary results indicated that hygiene products used daily may induce eye irritation via VR1 nociceptors. The lowest toxic concentration (0.025%) of liquid hand soap, as determined by morphologic divergences of cells, generated an 80% increase in [Ca2+]i over the basal [Ca2+]i in VR1 transfected cells, whereas the non-specific [Ca2+]i increased by 33%. Furthermore, all the endpoints studied indicated that shampoo for children was less active than shampoo for adults. If this method is successfully validated with standardised reference chemicals, the model could complete the test battery of in vitro alternatives, resulting in the saving of thousands of laboratory animals.
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Assessment of Ocular Irritation by Image Processed Quantification of Cell Injury in Human Corneal Cell Cultures and in Corneal Constructs

Maria Engelke, Jens Patzke, Svitlana Tykhonova and Michaela Zorn-Kruppa

Currently, there are no accepted alternative tests for the replacement of animals in ocular irritation testing. This study focused on the quantification of cellular viability as a measure of toxic events in immortalised human corneal cell cultures and a three-dimensional corneal construct. Simultaneous vital dye staining by calcein AM and ethidium homodimer-1 was used to provide “live” and “dead” probes, respectively. For further quantification, we have developed image processing tools to evaluate digital images obtained from confocal fluorescence scanning microscopy measurements. Based on the finding that ocular irritation can be related to the extent of cell injury at the various cell layers of the cornea, we extended our studies from corneal cell cultures to an in vitro human corneal equivalent system comprising epithelial, stromal keratocyte and endothelial layers. Our results showed that the microscopic measurement of cellular injury by using either cell cultures or in vitro corneal constructs, combined with image processed quantification, can provide insight into the extent of the toxic effects.
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Cellular Effects of Electromagnetic Fields

Jonne Naarala, Anne Höytö and Ari Markkanen

Studies at the cellular level are needed to reveal the cellular and molecular biological mechanisms underlying the biological effects and possible health implications of non-ionising radiation, such as extremely low frequency (ELF) magnetic fields (MFs) and radiofrequency (RF) fields. Our research group has studied the effects of 50Hz ELF MFs (caused by power lines and electric devices) and 872MHz or 900MHz RFs (emitted by mobile phones and their base stations) on cellular ornithine decarboxylase activity, cell cycle kinetics, cell proliferation, and necrotic or apoptotic cell death. For RFs, pulse-modulated (217Hz modulation frequency corresponding a global system for mobile communication-type signal) or continuous wave (unmodulated) signals were used. To expose
the cell cultures to MFs or RFs, specially developed exposure systems were used, where levels of electromagnetic field exposure and the conditions of cell culture could be precisely controlled. A coexposure approach was used in many studies, i.e. the cell cultures were exposed to other stressors in addition to MFs or RFs. Ultraviolet radiation, serum deprivation, or fresh medium addition, were used as co-exposures. The results presented in this short review show that the effects of mere MFs or RF on cell culture models are quite minor, but that various co-exposure approaches warrant additional study.
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Effects of Aluminium and Lead on ATPase Activity of Knockout GDNF+/– Mouse Cerebral Synaptosomes In Vitro

T. Kohila and H. Tähti

In this in vitro study, changes in the activity of the neural membrane integral protein, ATPase, were recorded after the exposure of isolated synaptosomes to different concentrations of aluminium and lead. Both total ATPase activity and Mg2+-ATPase activity were studied. A specific mouse strain, heterozygous for a glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), and the corresponding wildtype mouse cerebral tissue, were used for the synaptosome isolations. The ATPase activities of the GDNF+/– mouse synaptosomes were compared with those of wild-type synaptosomes. The decrease in total ATPase activity was similar in both types of synaptosomes, but after exposure to aluminium, the decrease of Mg2+-ATPase activity in the GDNF+/– synaptosomes was smaller than that in the wild-type synaptosomes. After exposure to lead, the protective effect of GDNF was not so clear. The synaptosomal effects of lead were already found at concentrations lower than those where cell toxicity appeared in SHSY5Y cell cultures. Thus, synaptosomal ATPase activity was considered to be a sensitive marker for the detection of lead-induced neurotoxicity.
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Cytotoxicity of the Dicarboximide Fungicides, Vinclozolin and Iprodione, in Rat Hepatoma-derived Fa32 cells

Paul J. Dierickx

Dicarboximide fungicides are widely used to control various fungal species. Their primary action is not known, due to a lack of knowledge concerning the mechanism of action of the dicarboximide group. The cytotoxicities of vinclozolin and iprodione in rat hepatoma-derived Fa32 cells were investigated. Cytotoxicity was measured by neutral red uptake inhibition after treatment for 24 hours. Iprodione was more toxic than vinclozolin. Vinclozolin was less toxic in glutathione-depleted cells than in control cells. This was also true for iprodione at lower concentrations, but iprodione became more toxic at higher concentrations. Both the fungicides increased the endogenous glutathione content by 20% after 1 hour. After 24 hours, the glutathione content was doubled by vinclozolin, but was not affected by iprodione. No effect on glutathione S-transferase activity or reactive oxygen species formation could be observed. Cytochrome P450-dependent ethoxyresorufin-O-deethylase and pentoxyresorufin-O-depentylase activities were moderately activated by iprodione and strongly activated by vinclozolin. A glutathione-related cytochrome P450-dependent metabolic attack of vinclozolin and iprodione could be responsible for their cytotoxicity in Fa32 cells. Further research is needed to fully elucidate these (or other) mechanisms.
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Cytotoxicity Assays with Fish Cells as an Alternative to the Acute Lethality Test with Fish

Helmut Segner

In ecotoxicology, in vitro assays with fish cells are currently applied for mechanistic studies, bioanalytical purposes and toxicity screening. This paper discusses the potential of cytotoxicity assays with fish cells to reduce, refine or replace acute lethality tests using fish. Basal cytotoxicity data obtained with fish cell lines or fish primary cell cultures show a reasonable to good correlation with lethality data from acute toxicity tests, with the exception of compounds that exert a specific mode of toxic action. Basal cytotoxicity data from fish cell lines also correlate well with cytotoxicity data from mammalian cell lines. However, both the piscine and mammalian in vitro assays are clearly less sensitive than the fish test. Therefore, in vivo LC50 values (concentrations of the test compounds that are lethal to 50% of the fish in the experiment within 96 hours) currently cannot be predicted from in vitro values. This in vitro–in vivo difference in sensitivity appears to be true for both fish cell lines and mammalian cell lines. Given the good in vitro–in vivo correlation in toxicity ranking, together with the clear-cut difference in sensitivity, the role of cytotoxicity assays in a tiered alternative testing strategy could be in priority setting in relation to toxic hazard and in the toxicity classification of chemicals and environmental samples.
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Oestradiol Potentiates the Effects of Certain Pyrethroid Compounds in the MCF7 Human Breast Carcinoma Cell Line

Irma Kakko, Tarja Toimela and Hanna Tähti

Pyrethroids are the most widely used insecticides for indoor pest control, so human exposure to them is common. The main target of pyrethroids is the nervous system, but their endocrine disrupting capabilities may also be of toxicological concern. In the present study, the proliferation of the breast cancer cell line, MCF7, was studied after a 7-day exposure to various concentrations of pyrethrin, permethrin and cypermethrin. The effects of oestradiol and the combined effects of oestradiol (0.10nM) and pyrethroids (0.1–100μM) on MCF7 cell proliferation were also evaluated. Proliferation and cell toxicity were studied by measuring the ATP content with a luminescence method, and mitochondrial metabolic enzyme activity with the WST-1 test. In the ATP test, low concentrations (0.1–1μM) of pyrethroids in co-exposure with oestradiol caused a clear statistically significant increase in the proliferation of MCF7 cells. This was evident when compared to the proliferative effect caused by 0.1nM oestradiol alone. High concentrations were cytotoxic, and the greatest cell toxicity was that of cypermethrin, which has a cyano group in its molecular structure.
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