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Toxicol Sci. 2011 Apr;120(2):413-27. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfr019. Epub 2011 Jan 27.

Differential estrogenic effects of the persistent organochlorine pesticides dieldrin, endosulfan, and lindane in primary neuronal cultures.

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Department of Neurochemistry and Neuropharmacology, Institut d'Investigacions Biomèdiques de Barcelona, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Institut d'investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer, E-08036 Barcelona, Spain.


The organochlorine chemicals endosulfan, dieldrin, and γ-hexachlorocyclohexane (lindane) are persistent pesticides to which people are exposed mainly via diet. Their antagonism of the γ-aminobutyric acid-A (GABA(A)) receptor makes them convulsants. They are also endocrine disruptors because of their interaction with the estrogen receptor (ER). Here, we study the effects of dieldrin, endosulfan, and lindane on ERs in primary cultures of cortical neurons (CN) and cerebellar granule cells (CGC). All the compounds tested inhibited the binding of [(3)H]-estradiol to the ER in both CN and CGC, with dieldrin in CGC showing the highest affinity. We also determined the effects of the pesticides on protein kinase B (Akt) and extracellular-regulated kinase 1 and 2 (ERK1/2) phosphorylation. Dieldrin and endosulfan increased Akt phosphorylation in CN, which was inhibited by the ERβ antagonist 4-[2-phenyl-5,7-bis(trifluoromethyl)pyrazolo[1,5-a]pyrimidin-3-yl]phenol. Instead, Akt and ERK1/2 phosphorylation induced by dieldrin in CGC was mediated by multiple activation of ERα, ERβ, and G protein-coupled receptor 30. Lindane did not activate these pathways, but it inhibited estradiol-mediated Akt and ERK1/2 activation. In CN, all the chemicals activated ERK1/2 through a mechanism involving GABA(A) and glutamate receptors. Long-term exposure to these pesticides reduced the levels of ERα, but not of ERβ. Moreover, extracts of CN treated with endosulfan, dieldrin, or lindane induced cell proliferation in MCF-7 human breast cancer-derived cells, whereas only extracts of CGC treated with dieldrin induced MCF-7 cell proliferation. Overall, the observed alterations on ER-mediated signaling and ER levels in neurons might contribute to the neurotoxicity of these organochlorine pesticides.

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