The effect of chronic lead ingestion on the central cholinergic system of immature rats was investigated. Rats were given 1% lead acetate solution in the drinking water before and after weaning. Tap water and sodium acetate controls were used. The growth of rats treated with lead was significantly inhibited as compared to controls. After chronic lead ingestion, a significant decrease in cholinesterase activity was seen in the medulla-pons, midbrain, and diencephalon, and a significant increase in choline acetyltransferase activity was found in the medulla-pons, hippocampus, and cerebral cortex. The only brain region exhibiting a change in acetylcholine content after chronic lead administration was the diencephalon, where a significant increase was observed. Thus, significant changes in the central cholinergic system have been found after chronic lead ingestion.
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