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Toxicol Sci. 2006 Sep;93(1):105-13. Epub 2006 Jun 7.

Developmental neurotoxicity of organophosphorous pesticides: fetal and neonatal exposure to chlorpyrifos alters sex-specific behaviors at adulthood in mice.

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  • 1Section of Behavioral Neurosciences, Department of Cell Biology and Neurosciences, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Viale Regina Elena 299, I-00161 Roma, Italy.


Developmental exposure to the organophosphorous insecticide chlorpyrifos (CPF) induces long-term effects on brain and behavior in laboratory rodents. We evaluated in adult mice the behavioral effects of either fetal and/or neonatal CPF exposure at doses not inhibiting fetal and neonatal brain cholinesterase. CPF (3 or 6 mg/kg) was given by oral treatment to pregnant females on gestational days 15-18 and offspring were treated sc (1 or 3 mg/kg) on postnatal days (PNDs) 11-14. Serum and brain acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity was evaluated at birth and 24 h from termination of postnatal treatments. On PND 70, male mice were assessed for spontaneous motor activity in an open-field test and in a socioagonistic encounter with an unfamiliar conspecific. Virgin females underwent a maternal induction test following presentation of foster pups. Both sexes were subjected to a plus-maze test to evaluate exploration and anxiety levels. Gestational and postnatal CPF exposure (higher doses) affected motor activity in the open field and enhanced synergically agonistic behavior. Postnatal CPF exposure increased maternal responsiveness toward pups in females. Mice of both sexes exposed to postnatal CPF showed reduced anxiety response in the plus-maze, an effect greater in females. Altogether, developmental exposure to CPF at doses that do not cause brain AChE inhibition induces long-term alterations in sex-specific behavior patterns of the mouse species. Late neonatal exposure on PNDs 11-14 was the most effective in causing behavioral changes. These findings support the hypothesis that developmental CPF may represent a risk factor for increased vulnerability to neurodevelopmental disorders in humans.

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