Skip Navigation
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

The .gov means it’s official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site.


The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

Your Environment. Your Health.

Publication Detail

Title: Prenatal and early-life exposure to high-level diesel exhaust particles leads to increased locomotor activity and repetitive behaviors in mice.

Authors: Thirtamara Rajamani, Keerthi; Doherty-Lyons, Shannon; Bolden, Crystal; Willis, Daniel; Hoffman, Carol; Zelikoff, Judith; Chen, Lung-Chi; Gu, Howard

Published In Autism Res, (2013 Aug)

Abstract: Abundant evidence indicates that both genetic and environmental factors contribute to the etiology of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). However, limited knowledge is available concerning these contributing factors. An epidemiology study reported a link between increased incidence of autism and living closely to major highways, suggesting a possible role for pollutants from highway traffic. We investigated whether maternal exposure to diesel exhaust particles (DEP) negatively affects fetal development leading to autism-like phenotype in mice. Female mice and their offspring were exposed to DEP during pregnancy and nursing. Adult male offspring were then tested for behaviors reflecting the typical symptoms of ASD patients. Compared to control mice, DEP-exposed offspring exhibited higher locomotor activity, elevated levels of self-grooming in the presence of an unfamiliar mouse, and increased rearing behaviors, which may be relevant to the restricted and repetitive behaviors seen in ASD patients. However, the DEP-exposed mice did not exhibit deficits in social interactions or social communication which are the key features of ASD. These results suggest that early life exposure to DEP could have an impact on mouse development leading to observable changes in animal behaviors. Further studies are needed to reveal other environmental insults and genetic factors that would lead to animal models expressing key phenotypes of the autism spectrum disorders.

PubMed ID: 23495194 Exiting the NIEHS site

MeSH Terms: Air Pollutants/toxicity*; Animals; Behavior, Animal/drug effects*; Compulsive Behavior/chemically induced*; Compulsive Behavior/physiopathology; Disease Models, Animal; Female; Grooming/drug effects; Male; Maternal Exposure/adverse effects*; Mice; Motor Activity/drug effects*; Pregnancy; Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects/chemically induced; Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects/physiopathology; Social Behavior; Vehicle Emissions/toxicity*

to Top