At concentrations present in the environment, each of three dissimilar toxic agents can seize control of a signaling pathway that regulates developing cells in the brain and spinal cord, researchers report. They suggest that scientists might use the pathway to predict the toxicology of a diverse range of chemicals.
Mark Noble of the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York and his colleagues focused on a pathway that controls the development of cells destined to become oligodendrocytes. Those mature cells produce the material that insulates nerve fibers.
Despite vast differences in structure, many toxic agents in the environment can oxidize cells, notes Noble. In normal development, subtle changes in the oxidative state of the oligodendrocyte precursors determine whether they continue to divide or proceed to their final form. To study how oxidizing chemicals would affect this development, the group exposed cultures of the progenitor cells from newborn rats to