Low level lead (Pb) exposure during gestation and lactation: assessment of effects on pubertal development in Fisher 344 and Sprague-Dawley female rats.
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Studies using both Fisher 344 and Sprague-Dawley (SD) rat lines have shown that gestational and/or lactational maternal lead (Pb) exposure causes delayed reproductive maturation in their respective female offspring. Because these studies utilized different experimental regimens for dosing and for monitoring Pb levels, it has not been possible to determine which rat line provides the best model for low level Pb toxicity studies. This study was designed to address this issue. Adult Fisher and SD female rats were dosed with either a solution of PbAc containing 12 mg of Pb/ml or sodium acetate (NaAc) for controls. Dosing began 30 days prior to breeding and continued until their pups were weaned at 21 days of age. At the time of breeding and through weaning the blood lead (BPb) levels in the Fisher dams averaged 37.3 microg/dl and the SD dams averaged 29.9 microg/dl. Pb delayed the timing of puberty (p < 0.01) in Fisher offspring, and suppressed serum levels of luteinizing hormone (LH, p < 0.001) and estradiol (E2, p < 0.01). These effects did not occur in the SD offspring. Doubling the dose given to the SD rats increased their BPb levels to 62.6 microg/dl, yet there were still no effects noted. These results indicate that Fisher offspring are more sensitive to maternal Pb exposure with regard to puberty related insults than are SD rats, suggesting that the Fisher line may be a more reliable rodent model to study the effects of low level Pb toxicity.