Repeated exposure to chlorpyrifos leads to prolonged impairments of axonal transport in the living rodent brain

Caterina M. Hernandez, Wayne D. Beck, Sean X. Naughton, Indrani Poddar, Bao Ling Adam, Nathan Yanasak, Chris Middleton, Alvin V. Terry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


The toxicity of the class of chemicals known as the organophosphates (OP) is most commonly attributed to the inhibition of the enzyme acetylcholinesterase. However, there is significant evidence that this mechanism may not account for all of the deleterious neurologic and neurobehavioral symptoms of OP exposure, especially those associated with levels that produce no overt signs of acute toxicity. In the study described here we evaluated the effects of the commonly used OP-pesticide, chlorpyrifos (CPF) on axonal transport in the brains of living rats using manganese (Mn2+)-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MEMRI) of the optic nerve (ON) projections from the retina to the superior colliculus (SC). T1-weighted MEMRI scans were evaluated at 6 and 24h after intravitreal injection of Mn2+. As a positive control for axonal transport deficits, initial studies were conducted with the tropolone alkaloid colchicine administered by intravitreal injection. In subsequent studies both single and repeated exposures to CPF were evaluated for effects on axonal transport using MEMRI. As expected, intravitreal injection of colchicine (2.5μg) produced a robust decrease in transport of Mn2+ along the optic nerve (ON) and to the superior colliculus (SC) (as indicated by the reduced MEMRI contrast). A single subcutaneous (s.c.) injection of CPF (18.0mg/kg) was not associated with significant alterations in the transport of Mn2+. Conversely, 14-days of repeated s.c. exposure to CPF (18.0mg/kg/day) was associated with decreased transport of Mn2+ along the ONs and to the SC, an effect that was also present after a 30-day (CPF-free) washout period. These results indicate that repeated exposures to a commonly used pesticide, CPF can result in persistent alterations in axonal transport in the living mammalian brain. Given the fundamental importance of axonal transport to neuronal function, these observations may (at least in part) explain some of the long term neurological deficits that have been observed in humans who have been repeatedly exposed to doses of OPs not associated with acute toxicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-26
Number of pages10
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Gulf War Illness
  • Manganese enhanced magnetic resonance imaging
  • Organophosphate
  • Pesticide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Toxicology


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