Postnatal development of the cerebellar cortex was studied in rats administered with a single dose (2 mg/g) of the cytotoxic agent hydroxyurea (HU) on postnatal day (P) 9 and collected at appropriate times ranging from 6 h to 45 days. Quantification of several parameters such as the density of pyknotic, mitotic, BrdU-positive, and vimentin-stained cells revealed that HU compromises the survival of the external granular layer (EGL) cells. Moreover, vimentin immunocytochemistry revealed overexpression and thicker immunoreactive glial processes in HU-treated rats. On the other hand, we also show that HU leads to the activation of apoptotic cellular events, resulting in a substantial number of dying EGL cells, as revealed by TUNEL staining and at the electron microscope level. Additionally, we quantified several features of the cerebellar cortex of rats exposed to HU in early postnatal life and collected in adulthood. Data analysis indicated that the analyzed parameters were less pronounced in rats administered with this agent. Moreover, we observed several alterations in the cerebellar cortex cytoarchitecture of rats injected with HU. Anomalies included ectopic placement of Purkinje cells and abnormities in the dendritic arbor of these macroneurons. Ectopic granule cells were also found in the molecular layer. These findings provide a clue for investigating the mechanisms of HU-induced toxicity during the development of the central nervous system. Our results also suggest that it is essential to avoid underestimating the adverse effects of this hydroxylated analog of urea when administered during early postnatal life.
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