UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Brain Disorders and Chemical Pollutants: A Gap Junction Link? Mesnil, Marc; Defamie, Norah; Naus, Christian; Sarrouilhe, Denis


The incidence of brain pathologies has increased during last decades. Better diagnosis (autism spectrum disorders) and longer life expectancy (Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease) partly explain this increase, while emerging data suggest pollutant exposures as a possible but still underestimated cause of major brain disorders. Taking into account that the brain parenchyma is rich in gap junctions and that most pollutants inhibit their function; brain disorders might be the consequence of gap-junctional alterations due to long-term exposures to pollutants. In this article, this hypothesis is addressed through three complementary aspects: (1) the gap-junctional organization and connexin expression in brain parenchyma and their function; (2) the effect of major pollutants (pesticides, bisphenol A, phthalates, heavy metals, airborne particles, etc.) on gap-junctional and connexin functions; (3) a description of the major brain disorders categorized as neurodevelopmental (autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, epilepsy), neurobehavioral (migraines, major depressive disorders), neurodegenerative (Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases) and cancers (glioma), in which both connexin dysfunction and pollutant involvement have been described. Based on these different aspects, the possible involvement of pollutant-inhibited gap junctions in brain disorders is discussed for prenatal and postnatal exposures.

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