Perinatal Domoic Acid as a Neuroteratogen

  • Tracy A. Doucette
  • R. Andrew TaskerEmail author
Part of the Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences book series (CTBN, volume 29)


In mammals, the period shortly before and shortly after birth is a time of massive brain growth, plasticity and maturation. It is also a time when the developing brain is exquisitely sensitive to insult, often with long-lasting consequences. Many of society’s most debilitating neurological diseases arise, at least in part, from trauma around the time of birth but go undetected until later in life. For the past 15 years, we have been studying the consequences of exposure to the AMPA/kainate agonist domoic acid (DOM) on brain development in the rat. Domoic acid is a naturally occurring excitotoxin that enters the food chain and is known to produce severe neurotoxicity in humans and other adult wildlife. Our work, and that of others, however, has demonstrated that DOM is also toxic to the perinatal brain and that toxicity occurs at doses much lower than those required in adults. This raises concern about the current regulatory limit for DOM contamination that is based on data in adult animals, but has also allowed creation of a novel model of neurological disease progression. Herein, we review briefly the toxicity of DOM in adults, including humans, and describe features of the developing nervous system relevant to enhanced risk. We then review the data on DOM as a prenatal neuroteratogen and describe in detail the work of our respective laboratories to characterize the long-term behavioural and neuropathological consequences of exposure to low-dose DOM in the newborn rat.


Glutamate receptors Amnesic shellfish toxin Seizures Epilepsy Schizophrenia Social interaction Attentional processing Cognition 



Research attributed to the Doucette and Tasker laboratories was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF), Springboard Atlantic and Innovation PEI. T.A. Doucette holds the Jeanne and J Louis Levesque Research Professorship and receives partial salary support from Neurodyn Life Sciences Inc.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Prince Edward IslandCharlottetownCanada
  2. 2.Department of Biomedical SciencesUniversity of Prince Edward IslandCharlottetownCanada

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