• Neurochemical biomarkers;
  • Neurotoxicology;
  • Wildlife toxicology;
  • Heavy metals;
  • Brain;
  • Lead


In the present study, the authors determined concentrations of several elements (As, Cd, Co, Cu, Cr, Mn, Pb, Sb, Zn) in the brains and livers of 46 bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) from two Great Lakes states, Michigan and Minnesota. To explore whether exposures are of neurological concern, the authors assessed their associations with neurochemical receptors (N-methyl-D-aspartate [NMDA] and γ-aminobutyric acid A [GABA(A)]) and enzymes (glutamine synthetase [GS] and glutamic acid decarboxylase [GAD]) that play critical roles in vertebrate neurobehavior and reproduction. For most elements, levels in the livers and brains did not differ between region and gender. Hepatic Pb levels averaged 33.1 ppm (dry wt), 30.4% of all carcasses exceeded proposed avian Pb thresholds (>26.4 ppm), and in 30.8% of the birds examined evidence of Pb pellets or fragments was found. Significant changes in the activities of GS and GAD were related to brain concentrations of several metals (Pb, Cd, Co, Cu, Zn). No relationships were found among any of the nine elements and NMDA or GABA(A) receptor levels. When combined with the authors' previous study on these same eagles that showed Hg-associated alterations in GS, GAD, and NMDA receptor levels, the present research suggests that bald eagles are exposed to various elements, especially Pb and Hg, that are capable of causing changes in GABAergic and glutamatergic neurotransmission. The functional significance of these neurochemical changes warrants attention. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2012;31:623–631. © 2011 SETAC