Bisphenol-A (BPA), a common environmental endocrine disruptor, modulates estrogenic, androgenic, and anti-androgenic effects throughout the lifespan. We recently showed that low dose BPA exposure during adolescence increases anxiety and impairs spatial memory independent of sex. In the current study, six week old Sprague Dawley rats (n=24 males, n=24 females) received daily subcutaneous injections (40 µg/kg bodyweight) of BPA or vehicle for one week. Serum corticosterone levels in response to a 1 h restraint stress and spine density were examined at age 7 (cohort 1) and 11 (cohort 2) weeks. Adolescent BPA exposure did not alter stress dependent corticosterone responses but decreased spine density on apical and basal dendrites of pyramidal cells in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and hippocampal CA1 region (CA1). Sex differences in spine density were observed on basal dendrites of the mPFC and CA1 with females having greater spine density than males. This sex difference was further augmented by both age and treatment, with results indicating that BPA-dependent decreases in spine density were more pronounced in males than females on mPFC basal dendrites. Importantly, the robust neuronal alterations were observed in animals exposed to BPA levels below the current U.S.E.P.A. recommended safe daily limit. These results are the first demonstrating that BPA given during adolescence leads to enduring effects on neural morphology at adulthood. Given that humans are routinely exposed to low levels of BPA through a variety of sources, the decreased spine density reported in both male and female rats after BPA exposure warrants further investigation.
Bowman, R. E., Luine, V. N., Khandaker, H., Villafane, J. J., & Frankfurt, M. (2014). Adolescent Bisphenol-A exposure decreases dendritic spine density: Role of sex and age. Synapse, 68(11): 498–507. doi:10.1002/syn.21758.