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This article is the author's final published version in Scientific Reports, Volume 12, Issue 1, July 2022, Article number 11937.

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Early life lead (Pb) exposure is detrimental to neurobehavioral development. The quality of the environment can modify negative influences from Pb exposure, impacting the developmental trajectory following Pb exposure. Little is known about the molecular underpinnings in the brain of the interaction between Pb and the quality of the environment. We examined relationships between early life Pb exposure and living in an enriched versus a non-enriched postnatal environment on genome-wide transcription profiles in hippocampus CA1. RNA-seq identified differences in the transcriptome of enriched vs. non-enriched Pb-exposed animals. Most of the gene expression changes associated with Pb exposure were reversed by enrichment. This was also true for changes in upstream regulators, splicing events and long noncoding RNAs. Non-enriched rats also had memory impairments; enriched rats had no deficits. The results demonstrate that an enriched environment has a profound impact on behavior and the Pb-modified CA1 transcriptome. These findings show the potential for interactions between Pb exposure and the environment to result in significant transcriptional changes in the brain and, to the extent that this may occur in Pb-exposed children, could influence neuropsychological/educational outcomes, underscoring the importance for early intervention and environmental enrichment for Pb-exposed children.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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