Activation of human neutrophils by technical toxaphene

Clin Immunol. 2001 Jan;98(1):46-53. doi: 10.1006/clim.2000.4946.


Toxaphene is a persistent organic pollutant (POP) known to be composed of numerous congeners. Toxaphene technical mixture applied as a pesticide consists of over 800 congeners. Among these, T(2) and T(12) are the two environmentally prevalent forms found in humans. Although toxaphene is known to exert some toxic effects, including potential proinflammatory properties, little is known concerning its action on cells of the human immune system, especially neutrophils. In the present study, we found that toxaphene was not necrotic for human neutrophils incubated for up to 24 h with concentrations ranging from 0.1 to 50 microg/ml. Toxaphene was found to induce neutrophil superoxide production (O(-)(2)) in a concentration-dependent manner. The potency and the kinetics of toxaphene-induced O(-)(2) by neutrophils were found to be similar to that of the classical neutrophil agonists phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA). Furthermore, the use of various transduction signal inhibitors (genistein, pertussis toxin, staurosporine, H-7, and HA-1077), suggests that, as for PMA, toxaphene mediates its effect primarily via PKCs and, to a lesser extend, via tyrosine kinases. In this respect, staurosporine, H-7, and genistein were found to inhibit toxaphene- and PMA-induced O(-)(2) production by 52, 72, and 31% and by 63, 62, and 23%, respectively. Toxaphene was also found to significantly enhance neutrophil phagocytosis of opsonized sheep red blood cells and to induce neutrophil apoptosis. The induction of neutrophil apoptosis was paralleled with a decrease in CD16 expression. T(2) and T(12), the two prevalent congeners found in humans, were also found to significantly increase the O(-)(2) production in neutrophils at a concentration of 5 microg/ml. We conclude that neutrophils are important targets for toxaphene, as this POP can activate O(-)(2) production by a PKC- and tyrosine kinase-dependent mechanism, induce phagocytosis, and accelerate the apoptotic rate. This is the first study that focuses on toxaphene/human neutrophil interactions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Insecticides / pharmacology*
  • Neutrophils / cytology
  • Neutrophils / drug effects*
  • Neutrophils / physiology*
  • Phagocytosis / drug effects
  • Protein Kinase C / metabolism
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • Superoxides / metabolism
  • Toxaphene / pharmacology*


  • Insecticides
  • Superoxides
  • Toxaphene
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Protein Kinase C