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Chem Biol Interact. 2014 Feb 25;209:68-76. doi: 10.1016/j.cbi.2013.12.002. Epub 2013 Dec 12.

Impact of isomalathion on malathion cytotoxicity and genotoxicity in human HepaRG cells.

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INSERM, UMR991, Liver Metabolisms and Cancer, Faculty of Pharmacy, Rennes, France; University of Rennes1, Rennes, France.
INSERM, UMR991, Liver Metabolisms and Cancer, Faculty of Pharmacy, Rennes, France; University of Rennes1, Rennes, France. Electronic address:


Isomalathion is a major impurity of technical grade malathion, one of the most abundantly applied insecticides; however little is known about its hepatotoxicity. In the present study, cytotoxicity and genotoxicity of malathion and isomalathion either individually or in combination, were assessed using the metabolically competent human liver HepaRG cell line. Isomalathion reduced cell viability starting at a 100 μM concentration after a 24h exposure. It also significantly induced caspase-3 activity in a dose-dependent manner starting at 5 μM. On the contrary, even at concentrations as high as 500 μM malathion affected neither cell viability nor caspase-3 activity. Moreover, co-exposure of both compounds resulted in decreased toxicity of isomalathion. By contrast, malathion and isomalathion either separately or in combination, slightly induced micronuclei formation at low concentrations and had additive genotoxic effects when combined at 25 μM. Individually or combined isomalathion directly inhibited activity of carboxyesterases which are involved in detoxication of malathion. In addition, transcripts of CYP2B6 and CYP3A4, two CYPs responsible for malathion phase I metabolism, were strongly induced by the mixture while isomalathion alone only moderately decreased CYP1A2 and increased CYP2B6 transcripts. However, these CYPs were not altered at the protein or activity levels. Taken altogether, our results showed that isomalathion was much more cytotoxic than malathion while both compounds had comparable genotoxic effects in HepaRG hepatocytes at low concentrations and brought further support to the importance of considering impurities and interactions during evaluation of health risks of pesticides.


Human hepatocytes; Low doses; Micronucleus assay; Mixture; Pesticides

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