, Volume 35, Issue 11, pp 1840-1847,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 28 Aug 2010

Neonatal Administration of Thimerosal Causes Persistent Changes in Mu Opioid Receptors in the Rat Brain

Abstract

Thimerosal added to some pediatric vaccines is suspected in pathogenesis of several neurodevelopmental disorders. Our previous study showed that thimerosal administered to suckling rats causes persistent, endogenous opioid-mediated hypoalgesia. Here we examined, using immunohistochemical staining technique, the density of μ-opioid receptors (MORs) in the brains of rats, which in the second postnatal week received four i.m. injections of thimerosal at doses 12, 240, 1,440 or 3,000 μg Hg/kg. The periaqueductal gray, caudate putamen and hippocampus were examined. Thimerosal administration caused dose-dependent statistically significant increase in MOR densities in the periaqueductal gray and caudate putamen, but decrease in the dentate gyrus, where it was accompanied by the presence of degenerating neurons and loss of synaptic vesicle marker (synaptophysin). These data document that exposure to thimerosal during early postnatal life produces lasting alterations in the densities of brain opioid receptors along with other neuropathological changes, which may disturb brain development.