Effects of single or repeated dermal exposure to methyl parathion on behavior and blood cholinesterase activity in rats

J Biomed Sci. Nov-Dec 2001;8(6):467-74. doi: 10.1007/BF02256609.


The effects of a single or repeated dermal administration of methyl parathion on motor function, learning and memory were investigated in adult female rats and correlated with blood cholinesterase activity. Exposure to a single dose of 50 mg/kg methyl parathion (75% of the dermal LD(50)) resulted in an 88% inhibition of blood cholinesterase activity and was associated with severe acute toxicity. Spontaneous locomotor activity and neuromuscular coordination were also depressed. Rats treated with a lower dose of methyl parathion, i.e. 6.25 or 12.5 mg/kg, displayed minimal signs of acute toxicity. Blood cholinesterase activity and motor function, however, were depressed initially but recovered fully within 1-3 weeks. There were no delayed effects of a single dose of methyl parathion on learning acquisition or memory as assessed by a step-down inhibitory avoidance learning task. Repeated treatment with 1 mg/kg/day methyl parathion resulted in a 50% inhibition of blood cholinesterase activity. A decrease in locomotor activity and impairment of memory were also observed after 28 days of repeated treatment. Thus, a single dermal exposure of rats to doses of methyl parathion which are lower than those that elicit acute toxicity can cause decrements in both cholinesterase activity and motor function which are reversible. In contrast, repeated low-dose dermal treatment results in a sustained inhibition of cholinesterase activity and impairment of both motor function and memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Animals
  • Behavior / drug effects*
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors / toxicity
  • Cholinesterases / blood
  • Cholinesterases / drug effects*
  • Cholinesterases / physiology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Insecticides / administration & dosage
  • Insecticides / toxicity*
  • Learning / drug effects
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Methyl Parathion / administration & dosage
  • Methyl Parathion / toxicity*
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Time Factors


  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors
  • Insecticides
  • Methyl Parathion
  • Cholinesterases