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Nervous and immune systems as targets for developmental effects of benzodiazepines. A review of recent studies.
Developmental Pharmacology and Therapeutics
Publication types: Journal Article ; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't ; Review
Prenatal exposure to benzodiazepines (BDZ) can cause behavioral dysfunctions both in humans and in experimental animals. In addition, prolonged impairment of cellular immune functions is found in rats after low dose BDZ exposure (e.g., diazepam 1.25 mg/kg/day) during part of fetal life [gestational days (GD) 14-20]. Analysis of diazepam and its metabolites in maternal and fetal tissues revealed that in this rat model the drug is no longer present at birth, which excludes direct effects of diazepam during the postnatal period. The main target of BDZ in brain, the GABAA receptor complex, is structurally and functionally heterogeneous. Besides alpha- and beta-subunits, gamma 2- or gamma 3-subunit should be coexpressed for a fully functional BDZ response. Signals of mRNAs encoding for alpha 1, beta 2 and gamma 2 are detected in fetal rat spinal cord and lower brainstem by GD 14 and reach telencephalic regions in later fetal life, reminiscent of BDZ receptor ontogeny. Regional subunit distribution differs from the adult brain, one interesting feature being a preponderance of gamma 2 mRNA throughout fetal life. Since subunit composition influences the sensitivity to BDZ, these data suggest that prenatal effects of BDZ depend upon regional subunit compositions present at different developmental stages. The delayed depression of cellular immune responses in prenatally BDZ-exposed rat offspring during the first 2 postnatal months is accompanied by various changes in immune cell biology. Binding characteristics of the peripheral (omega 3) type BDZ receptor are altered until adulthood (8 weeks). Membranes of spleen cell preparations containing mainly lymphocytes exhibit a decrease of affinity for the peripheral ligand [3H]PK11195, splenic macrophage preparations a decrease of maximal binding capacity. Various defects in cytokine production by macrophages and T lymphocytes were observed: Mitogen-stimulated release of macrophage-derived tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and of the T cell-derived interleukin-2 (IL-2) was drastically reduced at 2 and 4 weeks of life and recovered in young adulthood, exhibiting the same time course of depression as lymphocyte proliferation in response to immune stimuli. Interleukin-6 (IL-6) release remained diminished until adulthood. In female offspring, additional alterations were found in splenic noradrenaline turnover after immune stimulation. The mechanisms underlying the breakdown of the cytokine network in prenatally diazepam-exposed offspring, and the long-term consequences are as yet unknown.
Animals, Benzodiazepines, Female, Humans, Immune System, Nervous System, Pregnancy, Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects, Rats, Receptors, GABA-A
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