Pesticides and pesticide combinations on brain neurochemistry

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


Pesticides have been suggested to play a role in the development of many neurodegerative diseases including Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. Additionally, it has been suggested that exposure to pesticides and other environmental chemicals during the early stages of life could result in an increased vulnerability to such substances that could lead to neurotoxicity and degeneration late in life. We hypothesized that exposure to mixtures of certain pesticides could change neurotransmitter levels and cellular oxidative stress and that this would be greater in mice exposed early and later in life than mice exposed only as adults. We studied the effects of permethrin (PR) (a pyrethroid type I) and endosulfan (EN) (an organochlorine) on the levels of catecholamines, indolamines, acetylcholinesterase, lipid peroxidation and α-synuclein in the brain of mice. These pesticides have different structures but both are known to modify the kinetics of voltage-sensitive ion channels and calcium ion flux/homeostasis that could affect the release of several neurotransmitters. The study consisted of two experiments: In the first experiment, adult C57Bl/6 mice (7-9 months old) were injected, intraperitoneally, with the following treatments: EN 4.3, 2.15 mg/kg; PR 150, 15 mg/kg and their mixtures EN 4.3 + PR 150 and EN 2.15 + PR 15 mg/kg. Mice were sacrificed 24 hrs after the last injection. In the second experiment, doses consisted of EN 0.7, 1.4 mg/kg, PR 1.5, 15 mg/kg and their mixtures EN 0.7 + PR 1.5 mg/kg and EN 1.4 + PR 15 mg/kg were given to juvenile mice intraperitoneally daily during a period of two weeks from postnatal day 5 to 19. Mice were then, left undisturbed with their dams. Re-challenge was performed when mice were 7-9 months old and dosages of EN 4.3, 2.15 mg/kg, PR 150, 15 mg/kg and their mixtures, EN 4.3 + PR 150 and EN 2.15 + PR 15 mg/kg were given intraperitoneally every other day during a period of two weeks to match the treatments when pesticide exposure was only as adults. Mice were sacrificed 24 hrs after the last injection.

The corpora striatum was extracted and analyzed by HPLC for catecholamines (dopamine, DOPAC, homovalinic acid and norepinephrine) and indolamines (serotonin and 5-HIAA). In general low doses of permethrin and endosulfan alone and in combination (EN 2.15 + PR 15 mg/kg) altered the levels of catecholamines and indolamines in both studies with adult mice and mice dosed as juveniles and re-challenged as adults. Catecholamine and indolamines levels were affected to a greater extent in the adult mice than in mice dosed as juveniles and re-challenged as adults, when compared to controls.

Acetylcholinesterase was increased under both exposure situations but again adult mice seemed to be more affected than mice dosed as juveniles and re-challenged as adults.

Because reactive oxygen species have been implicated in the development of Parkinson's disease, and are known to cause degradation of certain neurotransmitters, we monitored the levels of lipid peroxides in brain cortex as an indicator of free radical tissue damage. The peroxide levels were measured by thiobarbituric acid reactive products (TBARS). Increased levels of lipid peroxides were significant in the low dose treatment groups of the adult study. However, there seemed to be a pattern between the levels of dopamine and DOPAC in the striatum and the levels of peroxidation in cortex. The presence of dopamine metabolites appeared to be related to high levels of peroxidation within the basal ganglia and up-regulation of proteins such as α-synuclein. Western blots of α-synuclein in both experiments of the study showed intense double and triple bands that corresponded to aggregated α-synuclein. In general, when compared with controls, mice dosed as juveniles and re-challenged as adults did not alter the above parameters as much as mice dosed only as adults. Instead, the mice first dosed as juveniles seemed to develop an adaptation response to the later exposure of these pesticides.

Taking all these results into account, early exposure and re-challenge with permethrin and endosulfan in this study appeared to induce a protective response against neurochemical changes in the brain of these mice. In addition, low doses of these pesticides and the low dose combination mixture seem to exert an effect on the parameters studied.

Therefore, exposure to pesticides such as endosulfan and permethrin and their combinations could make a contribution towards the initiation or aggravation of biochemical neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.



Lewy body, α-synuclein, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, basal ganglia., Neurotoxicology, Pesticides