Prenatal and lactational exposure to methylmercury affects select parameters of mouse cerebellar development

V. P. Markowski, C. B. Flaugher, R. B. Baggs, R. C. Rawleigh, C. Cox, B. Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Animal studies of the neuropathological effects of prenatal methylmercury (MeHg) seldom use regimens that represent environmental exposures. While acute administration of high doses of MeHg to developing rodents can model some of the outcomes MeHg produces in the human cerebellum, their long-term relevance to cerebellar development is unknown. The present study was undertaken to determine the effect of chronic dietary exposure to MeHg. Pregnant mice were exposed throughout gestation to 0.0 or 4.0 ppm methylmercury in their drinking water. Postpartum exposure of pups and lactating dams continued to postnatal day (PND) 30. On PND7, 14, 21, and 30, several morphometric indices of cerebellar cortex development, as well as blood and brain levels of total Hg, were measured in pairs of male and female littermates. No signs of overt toxicity were observed in the dams or offspring. Blood and brain levels of total Hg were highest in the exposed PND7 offspring and fell throughout the sampling period despite continued exposure. In a region of molecular layer in the anterodorsal lobe, MeHg exposure reduced the density of migrating cells in PND7 offspring. Molecular layer widths were reduced in PND30 offspring. In a region of the inferior lobe of PND7 offspring, MeHg exposure reduced external granular layer widths and decreased the density of migrating cells in the molecular layer. However, MeHg did not affect cerebellar cortex development in the central lobe, suggesting a regional sensitivity to chronic, low-level MeHg exposure during development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)879-892
Number of pages14
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Cerebellum
  • External Granular Layer
  • Methylmercury
  • Mice
  • Molecular Layer
  • Prenatal Exposure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Toxicology


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