Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin exposure alters radial arm maze performance and hippocampal morphology in female AhR +/- mice

B. E. Powers, T. M. Lin, A. Vanka, R. E. Peterson, J. M. Juraska, S. L. Schantz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Perinatal exposure to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) has been reported to alter spatial learning in rats tested on a radial arm maze (RAM). TCDD is believed to exert most of its effects through binding to the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR). To determine whether the AhR mediates TCDD-induced alterations in spatial learning, we tested male and female AhR-knockout (AhR -/-), heterozygous (AhR +/-) and wild-type (AhR +/+) mice on the RAM. AhR +/- male and female mice were time mated, and treated dams were dosed with 5 μg TCDD/kg body weight on day 13 of gestation. When offspring reached adulthood, male and female AhR +/+, AhR +/- and AhR -/- mice from TCDD-exposed and unexposed litters were tested on the eight-arm RAM. After testing, we examined hippocampal morphology as visualized by the Timm's silver sulfide stain. TCDD-exposed female AhR +/- mice made more errors than their respective controls on the RAM and exhibited a decrease in the size of the intra- and infrapyramidal mossy fiber (IIP-MF) field of the hippocampus. None of the other TCDD-exposed groups differed from their respective control groups with regard to maze performance or hippocampal morphology. The reduction of IIP-MF field indicates a possible morphological basis for the learning deficit that was observed in the female AhR +/- mice. It is hypothesized that the effect of TCDD exposure is AhR dependent and that TCDD may alter GABAergic activity in the hippocampus of female mice during development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-59
Number of pages9
JournalGenes, Brain and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2005


  • Aryl hydrocarbon receptor
  • Hippocampus
  • Mossy fibers
  • Radial arm maze
  • TCDD

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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