In vitro neurotoxicity of methylisothiazolinone, a commonly used industrial and household biocide, proceeds via a zinc and extracellular signal-regulated kinase mitogen-activated protein kinase-dependent pathway

J Neurosci. 2002 Sep 1;22(17):7408-16. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.22-17-07408.2002.


Neurodegenerative disorders in humans may be triggered or exacerbated by exposure to occupational or environmental agents. Here, we show that a brief exposure to methylisothiazolinone, a widely used industrial and household biocide, is highly toxic to cultured neurons but not to glia. We also show that the toxic actions of this biocide are zinc dependent and require the activation of p44/42 extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) via a 12-lipoxygenase-mediated pathway. The cell death process also involves activation of NADPH oxidase, generation of reactive oxygen species, DNA damage, and overactivation of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase, all occurring downstream from ERK phosphorylation. The toxic effects of methylisothiazolinone and related biocides on neurons have not been reported previously. Because of their widespread use, the neurotoxic consequences of both acute and chronic human exposure to these toxins need to be evaluated.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arachidonate 12-Lipoxygenase / metabolism
  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • DNA Damage / drug effects
  • Disinfectants / toxicity*
  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System / drug effects
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System / physiology
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • NADPH Oxidases / metabolism
  • Neuroglia / cytology
  • Neuroglia / drug effects
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Phosphorylation / drug effects
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases / metabolism
  • Potassium / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Thiazoles / toxicity*
  • Toxicity Tests
  • Zinc / metabolism*


  • Disinfectants
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Thiazoles
  • 2-methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase
  • Arachidonate 12-Lipoxygenase
  • NADPH Oxidases
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Zinc
  • Potassium