The tens of thousands of industrial and synthetic chemicals released into the environment have an unknown but potentially significant capacity to interfere with neurodevelopment. Consequently, there is an urgent need for systematic approaches that can identify disruptive chemicals. Little is known about the impact of environmental chemicals on critical periods of developmental neuroplasticity, in large part, due to the challenge of screening thousands of chemicals. Using an integrative bioinformatics approach, we systematically scanned 2001 environmental chemicals and identified 50 chemicals that consistently dysregulate two transcriptional signatures of critical period plasticity. These chemicals included pesticides (e.g., pyridaben), antimicrobials (e.g., bacitracin), metals (e.g., mercury), anesthetics (e.g., halothane), and other chemicals and mixtures (e.g., vehicle emissions). Application of a chemogenomic enrichment analysis and hierarchical clustering across these diverse chemicals identified two clusters of chemicals with one that mimicked an immune response to pathogen, implicating inflammatory pathways and microglia as a common chemically induced neuropathological process. Thus, we established an integrative bioinformatics approach to systematically scan thousands of environmental chemicals for their ability to dysregulate molecular signatures relevant to critical periods of development.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology