Lead (Pb) is a ubiquitous environmental and industrial pollutant and can affect intelligence development and the learning ability and memory of children. Therefore, necessary measures should be taken to protect the central nervous system (CNS) from Pb toxicity. Gangliosides are sialic acid-containing glycosphingolipids that are constituents of mammalian cell membranes and are more abundantly expressed in the CNS. Studies have shown that gangliosides constitute a useful tool in the attempt to promote functional recovery of CNS and can reverse Pb-induced impairments of synaptic plasticity in rats. However, the detailed mechanisms have yet to be fully understood. In our present study, we tried to investigate the role of gangliosides in Pb-induced injury in hippocampus neurons and to further confirm the detailed mechanism. Our results show that Pb-induced injuries in the spatial reference memory were associated with a reduction of cell viability and cell apoptosis, and treatment with gangliosides markedly ameliorated the Pb-induced injury by inhibition of apoptosis action. Gangliosides further attenuated Pb-induced the abnormal autophagic process by regulation of mTOR pathways. In summary, our study establishes the efficacy of gangliosides as neuroprotective agents and provides a strong rationale for further studies on the underlying mechanisms of their neuroprotective functions.
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