Effect of the pesticide Deltamethrin on the Mauthner cells of Lake Balaton fish

Neurotoxicology. 2000 Jun;21(3):343-52.


Deltamethrin, a synthetic pesticide [(S)alpha-cyano-3-phenoxybenzyl-(1R)-cis-3-(2.2-dibromovinyl)-2,2-dim ethylcyclopropane-carboxylate] used for extermination of mosquitoes on the shores of lake Balaton, has been found to induce severe impairments of the nervous system of several Lake Balaton fish, such as carp (Cyprinus carpio), goldfish (Carassius auratus gibelis Bloch), eel (Anguilla anguilla) and wels (Silurus glanis). It has been shown that Deltamethrin, in a concentration of 1 microgram/liter in the aquarium water, inhibits acetylcholinesterase enzyme activity of the giant Mauthner's nerve cells as well as of the axon terminals synapsing with these cells. Even more importantly, however, Deltamethrin in a concentration of 10 micrograms per liter, induces blockade of the expression of choline acetyltransferase in the bulbous axon terminals synapsing with the lateral dendrites of the Mauthner cells. Since, under normal conditions, the function of the Mauthner cells is to co-ordinate the C-start reaction, by which fish rapidly leave sites of nociceptive stimulation, it stands for reason to assume that Deltamethrin intoxicated fish may be prone to become victims of various factors which endanger survival of the individual. During the last decade, waves of fish deaths were observed in Lake Balaton, which is the largest fresh-water lake in Europe. Fish death coincided with airborne mosquito-killing campaigns. Results of the enzyme- and immunohistochemical studies described in this paper, together with the deleterious effects of Deltamethrin to the enteric nervous system of fish which has been reported earlier (Lang et al., 1997) suggest that fish death might be caused by the indiscriminate use of Deltamethrin airborne spray in the mosquito-extermination campaigns.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholinesterase / drug effects
  • Acetylcholinesterase / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Carps
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / drug effects
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / metabolism
  • Eels
  • Goldfish
  • Insecticides / chemistry
  • Insecticides / pharmacology*
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Nitriles
  • Pyrethrins / chemistry
  • Pyrethrins / pharmacology*


  • Insecticides
  • Nitriles
  • Pyrethrins
  • decamethrin
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase
  • Acetylcholinesterase