Toxicity studies on depleted uranium in primary rat cortical neurons and in caenorhabditis elegans: What have we learned?

Michael Aschner, George C.T. Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

12 Scopus citations


Depleted uranium (DU) is the major by-product of the uranium enrichment process for its more radioactive isotopes, retaining approximately 60% of its natural radioactivity. Given its properties as a pyrophoric and dense metal, it has been extensively used in armor and ammunitions. Questions have been raised regarding the possible neurotoxic effects of DU in humans based on follow-up studies in Gulf War veterans, where a decrease in neurocognitive behavior in a small population was noted. Additional studies in rodents indicated that DU readily traverses the blood-brain barrier, accumulates in specific brain regions, and results in increased oxidative stress, altered electrophysiological profiles, and sensorimotor deficits. This review summarizes the toxic potential of DU with emphasis on studies on thiol metabolite levels, high-energy phosphate levels, and isoprostane levels in primary rat cortical neurons. Studies in Caenorhabditis elegans detail the role of metallothioneins, small thiol-rich proteins, in protecting against DU exposure. In addition, recent studies also demonstrate that only one of the two forms, metallothionein-1, is important in the accumulation of uranium in worms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)525-539
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Toxicology and Environmental Health - Part B: Critical Reviews
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2009
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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