The developing nervous system is particularly vulnerable to chemical insults. Exposure to chemicals can result in neurobehavioural alterations, and these have been used as sensitive readouts to assess neurotoxicity in animals and man. Deconstructing neurobehaviour into relevant cellular and molecular components may allow for detection of specific neurotoxic effects in cell-based systems, which in turn may allow an easier examination of neurotoxic pathways and modes of actions and eventually inform the regulatory assessment of chemicals with potential developmental neurotoxicity. Here, current developments towards these goals are reviewed. Imaging genetics (CB) provides new insights into the neurobiological correlates of cognitive function that are being used to delineate neurotoxic mechanisms. The gaps between in vivo neurobehaviour and real-time in vitro measurements of neuronal function are being bridged by ex vivo measurements of synaptic plasticity (RW). An example of solvent neurotoxicity demonstrates how an in vivo neurological defect can be linked via the N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA)-glutamate receptor as a common target to in vitro readouts (AB). Axonal and dendritic morphology in vitro proved to be good correlates of neuronal connectivity and neurobehaviour in animals exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls and organophosphorus pesticides (PJL). Similarly, chemically induced changes in neuronal morphology affected the formation of neuronal networks on structured surfaces. Such network formation may become an important readout for developmental neurotoxicity in vitro (CvT), especially when combined with human neurons derived from embryonic stem cells (ML). We envision that future in vitro test systems for developmental neurotoxicity will combine the above approaches with exposure information, and we suggest a strategy for test system development and cell-based risk assessment.
- Electrophysiology neurogenetics
- Neurite growth
- Stem cells
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