The Effects of Maternal Atrazine Exposure and Swimming Training on Spatial Learning Memory and Hippocampal Morphology in Offspring Male Rats via PSD95/NR2B Signaling Pathway

  • Dandan Wang
  • Bai Li
  • Yanping Wu
  • Baixiang LiEmail author
Original Research


Atrazine (ATR), a widely used herbicide, has been previously shown to damage spatial memory capability and the hippocampus of male rats during the development. It has also been indicated that physical exercise can improve learning and memory in both humans and animals, as a neuroprotective method. Our aim here was to investigate the effect of maternal ATR exposure during gestation and lactation on spatial learning and memory function and hippocampal morphology in offspring and to further evaluate the neuroprotective effect of swimming training and identify possible related learning and memory signaling pathways. Using Sprague-Dawley rats, we examined behavioral and molecular biology effects associated with maternal ATR exposure, as well as the effects of 8 or 28 days swimming training. Maternal exposure to ATR was found to impair spatial learning and memory by behavioral test, damage the hippocampal morphology, and reduce related genes and proteins expression of learning and memory in the hippocampus. The extended, 28 days, period of swimming training produced a greater amelioration of the adverse effects of ATR exposure than the shorter, 8 days, training period. Our results suggest that maternal ATR exposure may damage the spatial learning and memory of offspring male rats via PSD95/NR2B signaling pathway. The negative effect of ATR could be at least partially reversed by swimming training, pointing to a potential neuroprotective role of physical exercise in nervous system diseases accompanying by learning and memory deficit.


Atrazine Swimming training Spatial learning memory Hippocampus PSD95 NR2B 





Immediate-early gene


c-Jun N-terminal kinase


N-methyl-d-aspartic acid


NMDA receptor subunit 2B


Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase


Phosphorylated c-Jun N-terminal kinase


Postsynaptic density protein-95



We are grateful to Di Huang and Xi Li at the Harbin Medical University for critically revising the manuscript and performing the statistical analysis. There was no specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors in this research.

Author Contributions

BL, DW, and BL all participated in the study design. DW, BL, and YW conducted the experiments. DW performed the data analysis and the writing of the manuscript. BL read the final manuscript and provided financial support.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Toxicology, School of Public HealthHarbin Medical UniversityHarbinChina

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