Serine/threonine protein phosphatases regulate several key cellular events in the brain, including learning and memory. These enzymes, when over-activated, are known to function as a constraint on learning and memory. We investigated whether these phosphatases are implicated in lead (Pb)-induced deficits in learning and memory. Wistar rat pups were exposed to 0.2% Pb-acetate via their dams' drinking water from postnatal day (PND) 1-21 and directly in drinking water until PND 30. Pb levels in blood, brain and hippocampus were measured and expression of PP1, PP2A, PP2B and PP5 in hippocampus was analyzed. Total phosphatase activity, and PP1 and PP2A activities were determined. Tau phosphorylation at various epitopes was determined by Western blot. Spatial learning and memory was determined by Morris water maze test. Pb exposure significantly increased levels of Pb in blood, brain and hippocampus, reduced the number of synapses in hippocampus and impaired learning and long-term memory (LTM). Short-term memory (STM) was only affected in rats at PND21. Pb exposure increased the expression and activity of PP1 and decreased phosphorylation of tau at threonine-231 in hippocampus at both PND21 and PND30. Pb-induced phosphorylation of tau at serine-199/202 (AT8) paralleled with PP2A activity; at PND21 PP2A activity increased and AT8 phosphorylation decreased; at PND30 PP2A activity decreased and AT8 phosphorylation increased. Increased PP1 activity in hippocampus by Pb is associated with learning and LTM impairment, whereas, increased PP2A activity is associated with STM impairment. These findings suggest the overactivation of PP1 and PP2A, together with changes in tau phosphorylation, as a potential mechanism of lead-induced deficits in learning and memory.
- Protein phosphatases