Objective: To study the alterations of neurobehavioral function and neurotransmitters in coke oven workers occupationally exposed to B[a]P and explore the possible biomarkers of B[a]P’s neurotoxicity.
Methods: One hundred seventy-six coke oven workers occupationally exposed to B[a]P and 48 warehouse workers (controls) in the raw material plant were investigated by questionnaire. Their neurobehavioral functions were determined using WHO/NCTB involving emotional and cognitive function. B[a]P’s concentrations in the working environments and levels of urinary 1-OH-Py of workers were assayed by HPLC with a fluorescence detector. HPLC was also used to detect the contents of monoamine and amino acid neurotransmitters, and spectrophotometry was used to determine the contents of choline neurotransmitters. And then correlation between the neurobehavioral changes and the neurotransmitters' contents were analyzed.
Results: The concentrations of airborne B[a]P were higher in the coke oven plant than that in the controls' working place, and the levels of 1-OH-Py increased significantly compared to the controls (p=0.000). The scores of digital span and order digital span reflecting learning and memory decreased significantly in the coke oven workers (p=0.006), and which decreased with 1-OH-Py level increasing. The contents of NE, DA, 5-HT and HVA decreased, while the levels of 5-HIAA increased in the exposed group compared to the controls, and the difference in NE was significant (p=0.000). Compared to the control group, the contents of Asp and GABA decreased significantly (p=0.004 and p=0.004). The Ach contents increased to 4-5 times of that in the controls, and the activities of AchE decreased significantly (p=0.000 and p =0.012). Statistical analysis showed that the scores of digital span and order digital span negatively correlated to Ach and positively correlated to AchE.
Conclusion: Occupational B[a]P exposure could reduce both the coke oven workers' neurobehavioral function and the contents of monoamine, amino acid and choline neurotransmitters. Moreover, Ach and AchE correlated with the neurobehavioral function, AchE has a poor specificity, so Ach may be the potential biomarker of B[a]P’s neurotoxicity.
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