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Adverse effects of prenatal exposure to residential dust on post-natal brain development

Background: Previous studies have shown an association between prenatal exposure to particulate matter (PM) and adverse brain development. However, it is unclear whether gestational exposure to community-sampled residential PM has an impact on the developing brain.

Objectives: We aimed to test whether in utero exposure to PM from residential roof spaces (ceiling voids) alters critical foetal neurodevelopmental processes.

Methods: Pregnant C57BL/6 mice were intranasally exposed to 100 μg of roof space particles (~5 mg kg-1) in 50 μl of saline, or saline alone under light methoxyflurane anaesthesia, throughout mid-to-late gestation. At 2 weeks post-natal age, pups were sacrificed and assessed for body and brain growth. The brain tissue was collected and examined for a range of neurodevelopmental markers for synaptogenesis, synaptic plasticity, gliogenic events and myelination by immunohistochemistry.

Results: Gestational exposure to roof space PM reduced post-natal body and brain weights. There was no significant effect of roof space PM exposure on synaptogenesis, synaptic plasticity or astrocyte density. However, PM exposure caused increased myelin load in the white matter and elevated microglial density which was dependent on the PM sample. These effects were found to be consistent between male and female mice.

Conclusions: Our data suggest that exposure to residential roof space PM during pregnancy impairs somatic growth and causes neuropathological changes in the developing brain.


National Health & Medical Research Council


Publication title

Environmental Research








Menzies Institute for Medical Research


Academic Press Inc Elsevier Science

Place of publication

525 B St, Ste 1900, San Diego, USA, Ca, 92101-4495

Rights statement

Copyright 2020 Elsevier Inc.

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Prevention of human diseases and conditions

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