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PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e32432. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032432. Epub 2012 Feb 29.

Nicotine-like effects of the neonicotinoid insecticides acetamiprid and imidacloprid on cerebellar neurons from neonatal rats.

Author information

1
Department of Brain Development and Neural Regeneration, Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Medical Science, Setagaya-city, Tokyo, Japan. kuroda-jk@igakuken.or.jp

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Acetamiprid (ACE) and imidacloprid (IMI) belong to a new, widely used class of pesticide, the neonicotinoids. With similar chemical structures to nicotine, neonicotinoids also share agonist activity at nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs). Although their toxicities against insects are well established, their precise effects on mammalian nAChRs remain to be elucidated. Because of the importance of nAChRs for mammalian brain function, especially brain development, detailed investigation of the neonicotinoids is needed to protect the health of human children. We aimed to determine the effects of neonicotinoids on the nAChRs of developing mammalian neurons and compare their effects with nicotine, a neurotoxin of brain development.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:

Primary cultures of cerebellar neurons from neonatal rats allow for examinations of the developmental neurotoxicity of chemicals because the various stages of neurodevelopment-including proliferation, migration, differentiation, and morphological and functional maturation-can be observed in vitro. Using these cultures, an excitatory Ca(2+)-influx assay was employed as an indicator of neural physiological activity. Significant excitatory Ca(2+) influxes were evoked by ACE, IMI, and nicotine at concentrations greater than 1 µM in small neurons in cerebellar cultures that expressed the mRNA of the α3, α4, and α7 nAChR subunits. The firing patterns, proportion of excited neurons, and peak excitatory Ca(2+) influxes induced by ACE and IMI showed differences from those induced by nicotine. However, ACE and IMI had greater effects on mammalian neurons than those previously reported in binding assay studies. Furthermore, the effects of the neonicotinoids were significantly inhibited by the nAChR antagonists mecamylamine, α-bungarotoxin, and dihydro-β-erythroidine.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE:

This study is the first to show that ACE, IMI, and nicotine exert similar excitatory effects on mammalian nAChRs at concentrations greater than 1 µM. Therefore, the neonicotinoids may adversely affect human health, especially the developing brain.

PMID:
22393406
PMCID:
PMC3290564
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0032432
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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