Effects of chronic exposure to sublethal concentrations of lead acetate on heme synthesis and immune function in red-tailed hawks
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Red-tailed hawks were exposed to sublethal levels of lead acetate for periods of 3 or 11 weeks. Alterations in the heme biosynthetic pathway were demonstrated after the first week of exposure to 0.82 mg lead per kilogram body weight per day. Activity of erythrocyte porphobilinogen synthase (aminolevulinic acid dehydratase) was depressed significantly and did not return to normal levels until 5 weeks after the termination of lead treatments. A rapid and relatively brief increase in erythrocyte free protoporphyrin and a slower but more prolonged increase in its zinc complex were also demonstrated with exposure to this dose of lead for 3 weeks. Less substantial decreases in hematocrit and hemoglobin levels occurred but only in the longer experiment with exposure to higher lead levels. Short term, low level lead exposure did not effect immune function significantly in the hawks, as measured by antibody titers to foreign red blood cells or by the mitogenic stimulation of T-lymphocytes. Increased lead exposure produced a significant decrease in the mitogenic response but had no effect on antibody titers.
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