Fluoride Action Network



  • Rats were long–term chronic exposed to environmentally relevant doses of fluoride.
  • Fluoride exposure results in synaptic alterations both in vivo and in vitro.
  • Fluoride–induced cognitive failures correlates with synaptic deficits.
  • BDNF–TrkB axis disruption contributes to fluoride–elicited impaired synaptogenesis.
  • ERK1/2 plays a vital role in fluoride–induced BDNF–TrkB signaling disruption.

Excessive exposure to fluoride has adverse effects on neurodevelopment, but the mechanisms remain unclear. This study aimed to investigate the effects of fluoride exposure on synaptogenesis, and focused on the role of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)-tyrosine kinase B (TrkB) signaling in these effects. Using Sprague-Dawley rats developmentally exposed to sodium fluoride (NaF) from pregnancy until 6 months of delivery as in vivo model, we showed that fluoride impaired the cognitive abilities of offspring rats, decreased the density of dendritic spines and the expression of synapse proteins synaptophysin (SYN) and postsynaptic density protein-95 (PSD-95) in hippocampus, suggesting fluoride-induced cognitive deficit associates with synaptic impairment. Consistently, NaF treatment reduced dendritic outgrowth and expression of SYN and PSD-95 in human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells. Further studies demonstrated that the BDNF-TrkB axis was disrupted in vivo and in vitro, as manifested by BDNF accumulation and TrkB reduction. Importantly, fluoride treatment increased phospho-extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1 and 2 (p-ERK1/2) expression, while inhibition of p-ERK1/2 significantly attenuated the effects of NaF, indicating a regulating role of p-ERK1/2 in BDNF-TrkB signaling disruption. Collectively, these data suggest that the developmental neurotoxicity of fluoride is associated with the impairment of synaptogenesis, which is caused by ERK1/2-mediated BDNF-TrkB signaling disruption.