Toxicology, 2005, 212 (2-3), 219-226

The brain is a target organ after acute exposure to depleted uranium

Philippe Lestaevel, Pascale Houpert, Cyrill Bussy, Bernadette Dhieux, Patrick Gourmelon and Francois Paquet

The health effects of depleted uranium (DU) are mainly caused by its chemical toxicity. Although the kidneys are the main target organs for uranium toxicity, uranium can also reach the brain. In this paper, the central effects of acute exposure to DU were studied in relation to health parameters and the sleep-wake cycle of adult rats. Animals were injected intraperitoneally with 144+/-10 microg DU kg-1 as nitrate. Three days after injection, the amounts of uranium in the kidneys represented 2.6 microg of DU g-1 of tissue, considered as a sub-nephrotoxic dosage. The central effect of uranium could be seen through a decrease in food intake as early as the first day after exposure and shorter paradoxical sleep 3 days after acute DU exposure (-18% of controls). With a lower dosage of DU (70+/-8 microg DU kg-1), no significant effect was observed on the sleep-wake cycle. The present study intends to illustrate the fact that the brain is a target organ, as are the kidneys, after acute exposure to a moderate dosage of DU. The mechanisms by which uranium causes these early neurophysiological perturbations shall be discussed.