Disruption of the blood-brain barrier and neuronal cell death in cingulate cortex, dentate gyrus, thalamus, and hypothalamus in a rat model of Gulf-War syndrome. Academic Article uri icon


  • We investigated the effects of a combined exposure to restraint stress and low doses of chemicals pyridostigmine bromide (PB), N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide (DEET), and permethrin in adult male rats, a model of Gulf-War syndrome. Animals were exposed daily to one of the following for 28 days: (i) a combination of stress and chemicals (PB, 1.3 mg/kg/day; DEET, 40 mg/kg/day; and permethrin, 0.13 mg/kg/day); (ii) stress and vehicle; (iii) chemicals alone; and (iv) vehicle alone. All animals were evaluated for: (i) the disruption of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) using intravenous horseradish peroxidase (HRP) injections and endothelial barrier antigen (EBA) immunostaining; (ii) neuronal cell death using H&E staining, silver staining, and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) immunostaining; and (iii) acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity and m2-muscarinic acetylcholine receptors (m2-AChR). Animals subjected to stress and chemicals exhibited both disruption of the BBB and neuronal cell death in the cingulate cortex, the dentate gyrus, the thalamus, and the hypothalamus. Other regions of the brain, although they demonstrated some neuronal cell death, did not exhibit disruption of the BBB. The neuropathological changes in the above four brain regions were highly conspicuous and revealed by a large number of HRP-positive neurons (21-40% of total neurons), a decreased EBA immunostaining (42-51% reduction), a decreased number of surviving neurons (27-40% reduction), the presence of dying neurons (4-10% of total neurons), and an increased GFAP immunostaining (45-51% increase). These changes were also associated with decreased forebrain AChE activity and m2-AchR (19-25% reduction). In contrast, in animals exposed to stress and vehicle or chemicals alone, the above indices were mostly comparable to that of animals exposed to vehicle alone. Thus, a combined exposure to stress and low doses of PB, DEET, and permethrin leads to significant brain injury. The various neurological symptoms reported by Gulf-War veterans could be linked to this kind of brain injury incurred during the war.

published proceedings

  • Neurobiol Dis

altmetric score

  • 6

author list (cited authors)

  • Abdel-Rahman, A., Shetty, A. K., & Abou-Donia, M. B

citation count

  • 115

complete list of authors

  • Abdel-Rahman, Ali||Shetty, Ashok K||Abou-Donia, Mohamed B

publication date

  • August 2002