Biochemical markers of neurotoxicity. A review of mechanistic studies and applications

Luigi Manzo, Francesc Artigas, Emili Martínez, Antonio Mutti, Enrico Bergamaschi, Pierluigi Nicotera, Marcello Tonini, Stefano M. Candura, David E. Ray, Lucio G. Costa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neurotoxicology presents major challenges to the development of biological markers in accordance to conventional research strategies. Because of the inaccessibility of the nervous system, one of the proposed alternatives is the study of biochemical signals in peripheral tissues which can easily and ethically be obtained in humans, and which could represent surrogate indicators of equivalent parameters in the nervous tissue. Considerable scientific support to this approach is provided by the results of recent investigations in major areas of pharmacology and psychobiology. Studies examining parameters of neurotransmission and second messenger systems in peripheral blood cells, and variations in the peripheral body fluid content of endogenous substances reflecting nervous tissue dysfunction or damage are presented in this paper as examples of efforts toward rational development and validation of novel indicators of nervous system toxicity. Cholinergic muscarinic receptors and calcium signalling in peripheral blood lymphocytes, myelin basic protein in cerebrospinal fluid, and blood polyamines are discussed as potential surrogate indicators based on the results of in vitro or in vivo animal studies of neurotoxic metals (mercury, triethyltin], pesticides (disulfoton), drugs of abuse (d-fenfluramine) and model epileptogenic compounds (kainic acid). Data from investigations examining serum prolactin, type B monoamine oxidase (MAO-B) and dopamine β-hydroxylase (DBH) in workers occupation ally exposed to manganese, lead or styrene are also presented. Although research in this field is still at its very early stage, current evidence suggests that (i) certain neurochemical markers may be valuably used in animal studies as a complement to conventional laboratory tests to augment their sensitivity or predictivity; (ii) a mechanistic research approach is required to establish which markers offer the greatest promise for application in human biomonitoring.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman and Experimental Toxicology
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1996


  • Biological markers
  • D-fenfluramine
  • Lead
  • Manganese
  • Serotonin
  • Styrene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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