Cobalt neurotoxicity : transcriptional effect of elevated cobalt blood levels in the rodent brain

Gómez-Arnaiz, Sara and Tate, Rothwelle J. and Grant, Mary Helen (2022) Cobalt neurotoxicity : transcriptional effect of elevated cobalt blood levels in the rodent brain. Toxics, 10 (2). 59. ISSN 2305-6304 (

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Metal-on-metal (MoM) hip implants made of cobalt chromium (CoCr) alloy have shown early failure compared with other bearing materials. A consequence of the abnormal wear produced by these prostheses is elevated levels of cobalt in the blood of patients, which can lead to systemic conditions involving cardiac and neurological symptoms. In order to better understand the implications for patients with these implants, we carried out metal content and RNA-Seq analysis of excised tissue from rats treated intraperitonially for 28 days with low concentrations of cobalt. Cobalt blood levels in dosed rats were found to be similar to those seen in some patients with MoM implants (range: 4−38 μg/L Co in blood). Significant accumulation of cobalt was measured in a range of tissues including kidney, liver, and heart, but also in brain tissue. RNA-Seq analysis of neural tissue revealed that exposure to cobalt induces a transcriptional response in the prefrontal cortex (pref. cortex), cerebellum, and hippocampus. Many of the most up- and downregulated genes appear to correspond to choroid plexus transcripts. These results indicate that the choroid plexus could be the brain tissue most affected by cobalt. More specifically, the differentially expressed genes show a disruption of steroidogenesis and lipid metabolism. Several other transcripts also demonstrate that cobalt induces an immune response. In summary, cobalt exposure induces alterations in the brain transcriptome, more specifically, the choroid plexus, which is in direct contact with neurotoxicants at the blood−cerebrospinal fluid barrier.