Neurobehavioral toxicity of a repeated exposure (14 days) to the airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon fluorene in adult Wistar male rats.
Fluorene is one of the most abundant polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in air and may contribute to the neurobehavioral alterations induced by the environmental exposure of humans to PAHs. Since no data are available on fluorene neurotoxicity, this study was conducted in adult rats to assess the behavioral toxicity of repeated fluorene inhalation exposure. Male rats (n = 18/group) were exposed nose-only to 1.5 or 150 ppb of fluorene 6 hours/day for 14 consecutive days, whereas the control animals were exposed to non-contaminated air. At the end of the exposure, animals were tested for activity and anxiety in an open-field and in an elevated-plus maze, for short-term memory in a Y-maze, and for spatial learning in an eight-arm maze. The results showed that the locomotor activity and the learning performances of the animals were unaffected by fluorene. In parallel, the fluorene-exposed rats showed a lower level of anxiety than controls in the open-field, but not in the elevated-plus maze, which is probably due to a possible difference in the aversive feature of the two mazes. In the same animals, increasing blood and brain levels of fluorene monohydroxylated metabolites (especially the 2-OH fluorene) were detected at both concentrations (1.5 and 150 ppb), demonstrating the exposure of the animals to the pollutant and showing the ability of this compound to be metabolized and to reach the cerebral compartment. The present study highlights the possibility for a 14-day fluorene exposure to induce some specific anxiety-related behavioral disturbances, and argues in favor of the susceptibility of the adult brain when exposed to volatile fluorene.