The Carbamate, Physostigmine does not Impair Axonal Transport in Rat Cortical Neurons

Sean X. Naughton, Wayne D. Beck, Zhe Wei, Guangyu Wu, Peter W. Baas, Alvin V. Terry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Among the various chemicals that are commonly used as pesticides, organophosphates (OPs), and to a lesser extent, carbamates, are most frequently associated with adverse long-term neurological consequences. OPs and the carbamate, pyridostigmine, used as a prophylactic drug against potential nerve agent attacks, have also been implicated in Gulf War Illness (GWI), which is often characterized by chronic neurological symptoms. While most OP- and carbamate-based pesticides, and pyridostigmine are relatively potent acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (AChEIs), this toxicological mechanism is inadequate to explain their long-term health effects, especially when no signs of acute cholinergic toxicity are exhibited. Our previous work suggests that a potential mechanism of the long-term neurological deficits associated with OPs is impairment of axonal transport (AXT); however, we had not previously evaluated carbamates for this effect. Here we thus evaluated the carbamate, physostigmine (PHY), a highly potent AChEI, on AXT using an in vitro neuronal live imaging assay that we have previously found to be very sensitive to OP-related deficits in AXT. We first evaluated the OP, diisopropylfluorophosphate (DFP) (concentration range 0.001-10.0 µM) as a reference compound that we found previously to impair AXT and subsequently evaluated PHY (concentration range 0.01-100 nM). As expected, DFP impaired AXT in a concentration-dependent manner, replicating our previously published results. In contrast, none of the concentrations of PHY (including concentrations well above the threshold for impairing AChE) impaired AXT. These data suggest that the long-term neurological deficits associated with some carbamates are not likely due to acute impairments of AXT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNeuroscience Insights
StatePublished - 2021


  • Pesticide
  • agriculture
  • carbamate
  • gulf war illness
  • insecticide
  • organophosphate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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