Neuroteratology and Animal Modeling of Brain Disorders

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Over the past 60 years, a large number of selective neurotoxins were discovered and developed, making it possible to animal-model a broad range of human neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders. In this paper, we highlight those neurotoxins that are most commonly used as neuroteratologic agents, to either produce lifelong destruction of neurons of a particular phenotype, or a group of neurons linked by a specific class of transporter proteins (i.e., dopamine transporter) or body of receptors for a specific neurotransmitter (i.e., NMDA class of glutamate receptors). Actions of a range of neurotoxins are described: 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA), 6-hydroxydopa, DSP-4, MPTP, methamphetamine, IgG-saporin, domoate, NMDA receptor antagonists, and valproate. Their neuroteratologic features are outlined, as well as those of nerve growth factor, epidermal growth factor, and that of stress. The value of each of these neurotoxins in animal modeling of human neurologic, neurodegenerative, and neuropsychiatric disorders is discussed in terms of the respective value as well as limitations of the derived animal model. Neuroteratologic agents have proven to be of immense importance for understanding how associated neural systems in human neural disorders may be better targeted by new therapeutic agents.