Aggregating brain cell cultures of fetal rat telencephalon can be grown in a chemically defined medium for extended periods of time. After a phase of intense mitotic activity, these three-dimensional cell cultures undergo extensive morphological differentiation, including synaptogenesis and myelination. To study the developmental toxicity of organophosphorus compounds (op), aggregating brain cell cultures were treated with parathion. Protein content and cell type-specific enzyme activities were not affected up to a concentration of 10-5 M. Gliosis, characterized by an increased staining for glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), was observed in immature and in differentiated cells. In contrast, uridine incorporation and myelin basic protein (MBP) immunoreactivity revealed strong differences in sensitivity between these two developmental stages. These results are in agreement with the view that in vivo the development-dependent toxicity is not only due to changes in hepatic detoxification, but also to age-related modifications in the susceptibility of the different populations of brain cells. Furthermore, they underline the usefulness of histotypic culture systems with a high developmental potential, such as aggregating brain cell cultures, and stress the importance of applying a large range of criteria for testing the developmental toxicity of potential neurotoxicants. (C) 2000 Intox Press, Inc.
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