Uranyl acetate-induced sensorimotor deficit and increased nitric oxide generation in the central nervous system in rats

Mohamed B. Abou-Donia, Anjelika M. Dechkovskaia, Larry B. Goldstein, Deepti U. Shah, Sarah L. Bullman, Wasiuddin A. Khan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


We investigated the effects of uranyl acetate on sensorimotor behavior, generation of nitric oxide and the central cholinergic system of rats. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were treated with intramuscular injection of 0.1 and 1 mg/kg uranyl acetate in water, daily for 7 days. Control animals received equivalent amount of water. The treatment was stopped after the seventh injection because the animals in the 1-mg/kg group appeared lethargic. The animals were maintained for an additional observation period of 30 days. The study was initiated as a dose-finding study that covered doses of 10 and 100 mg/kg, as well. However, all the animals in the 100-mg/kg treatment group died after the third and fourth injections, and all animals given 10 mg/kg died after the fifth and sixth injections. On Day 30 following the cessation of treatment, the sensorimotor functions of the animals in the 0.1- and 1-mg/kg treatment groups were evaluated using a battery of tests that included measurements of postural reflexes, limb placing, orientation to vibrissae touch, grip time, beam walking and inclined plane performance. The animals were sacrificed the same day and the cerebral cortex, brainstem, cerebellum and midbrain were dissected. The levels of nitric oxide as marker for increased oxidative stress, and the integrity of the cholinergic system as reflected in acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity and m2 muscarinic acetylcholine receptors ligand binding, were determined. The data from behavioral observations show that there was a dose-related deficit at the 0.1- and 1-mg/kg treatment groups for inclined plane performance. Both doses reduced grip time, but there was no significant difference between the two doses. Similarly, both beam-walk score and beam-walk time were impaired at both doses as compared with the controls. A significant increase in nitric oxide was seen at 0.1 mg/kg dose in cortex and midbrain, whereas brainstem and cerebellum showed an insignificant decrease at both the doses. Similarly, there was no significant change in nitric oxide levels in kidneys and liver of the treated animals as compared with the controls. There was a significant increase in AChE activity in the cortex of the animals treated with 1 mg/kg uranyl acetate, but not in other brain regions. Ligand binding densities for the m2 muscarinic receptor did not show any change. These results show that low-dose, multiple exposure to uranyl acetate caused prolonged neurobehavioral deficits after the initial exposure has ceased.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)881-890
Number of pages10
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2002


  • Acetylcholinesterase
  • Depleted uranium (DU)
  • Muscarinic acetylcholine receptor
  • Neurotoxicity
  • Nitric oxide
  • Sensorimotor
  • Uranyl acetate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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