Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are ubiquitous persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that are known neuroendocrine disrupting chemicals with adverse neurodevelopmental effects. PBDEs may act as risk factors for autism spectrum disorders (ASD), characterized by abnormal psychosocial functioning, although direct evidence is currently lacking. Using a translational exposure model, we tested the hypothesis that maternal transfer of a commercial mixture of PBDEs, DE-71, produces ASD-relevant behavioral and neurochemical deficits in female offspring. C57Bl6/N mouse dams (F0) were exposed to DE-71 via oral administration of 0 (VEH/CON), 0.1 (L-DE-71) or 0.4 (H-DE-71) mg/kg bw/d from 3 wk prior to gestation through end of lactation. Mass spectrometry analysis indicated in utero and lactational transfer of PBDEs (in ppb) to F1 female offspring brain tissue at postnatal day (PND) 15 which was reduced by PND 110. Neurobehavioral testing of social novelty preference (SNP) and social recognition memory (SRM) revealed that adult L-DE-71 F1 offspring display deficient short- and long-term SRM, in the absence of reduced sociability, and increased repetitive behavior. These effects were concomitant with reduced olfactory discrimination of social odors. Additionally, L-DE-71 exposure also altered short-term novel object recognition memory but not anxiety or depressive-like behavior. Moreover, F1 L-DE-71 displayed downregulated mRNA transcripts for oxytocin (Oxt) in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) and supraoptic nucleus, and vasopressin (Avp) in the BNST and upregulated Avp1ar in BNST, and Oxtr in the paraventricular nucleus. Our work demonstrates that developmental PBDE exposure produces ASD-relevant neurochemical, olfactory processing and behavioral phenotypes that may result from early neurodevelopmental reprogramming within central social and memory networks.
© 2021. The Author(s).