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Abstract— The neurochemical effect of maternally administered methadone (5 mg/kg, DL‐methadone‐HCI) on the brain (including the olfactory bulbs, cerebellum, and brain stem) and cerebellum of offspring exposed during gestation and/or lactation was studied in 10‐, 21‐, and 60‐day old rats. Brain weights were significantly reduced in all methadone‐exposed groups at 10 days of age, while only those rats subjected to methadone during gestation or lactation had deficits in brain weights at day 21; no differences were found at 60 days. Brain DNA content was significantly reduced in all opiate‐exposed offspring at every age examined, but RNA/DNA and protein/DNA ratios were only consistently increased in rats of the gestation group. Cerebellar weight was reduced at 10 days in the gestation‐lactation pups, at 21 days in rats of the gestation and lactation groups, and at 60 days in animals of the gestation and gestation‐lactation groups. Cerebellar DNA content was significantly decreased in pups of the gestation group at every age investigated, but only reduced at 21 days in the lactation group and at 60 days in the gestation‐lactation group. Rats in the lactation group had the greatest number of alterations in terms of RNA and protein, with the most noticeable being decreases in mean cellular RNA content on days 21 and 60 and a reduction in the mean cellular protein content on day 60. These data suggest that prenatal and/or postnatal methadone treatment affects the biochemical maturation of the central nervous system; deficits in neurons and/or glia, as well as a reduction in myelination, might be reflected in these changes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-54
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of neurochemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1978

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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