Nickel (Ni) is a heavy metal that is both an environmental pollutant and a threat to human health. However, the effects of Ni on the central nervous system in susceptible populations have not been well established. In the present study, the neurotoxicity of Ni and its underlying mechanism were investigated in vivo and in vitro. Ni exposure through drinking water (10 mg Ni/L, 12 weeks) caused learning and memory impairment in mice. Reduced dendrite complexity was observed in both Ni-exposed mouse hippocampi and Ni-treated (200 μM, 72 h) primary cultured hippocampal neurons. The levels of histone acetylation, especially at histone H3 lysine 9 (H3K9ac), were reduced in Ni-exposed mouse hippocampi and cultured neurons. RNA sequencing and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) sequencing analyses revealed that H3K9ac-modulated gene expression were downregulated. Treatment with sodium butyrate, a histone deacetylase inhibitor, attenuated Ni-induced H3K9 hypoacetylation, neural gene downregulation and dendrite complexity reduction in cultured...

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