Nerve membrane Na+ channels as targets of insecticides

Trends Pharmacol Sci. 1992 Jun;13(6):236-41. doi: 10.1016/0165-6147(92)90075-h.


The mechanisms of action of neuroactive insecticides on the nervous system has been studied for many years. It is now well established that severe neurological symptoms of poisoning with pyrethroids and DDT in mammals and insects are the result of modification of Na+ channel activity. Toshio Narahashi discusses the history, approaches and results of the studies leading to this conclusion. Advanced electrophysiological experiments using voltage clamp and patch clamp, together with ligand-binding and ionic flux experiments, have unveiled unique actions of pyrethroids and DDT of keeping the Na+ channel in the open state for an extremely long period, sometimes as long as several seconds. This modification of Na+ channel properties leads to hyperactivity of the nervous system. These insecticides have also been shown to suppress GABA and glutamate receptor-channel complexes and voltage-activated Ca2+ channels, but the toxicological significance of these actions remains to be seen. The results of these studies provide clues for developing newer insecticides with higher selectivity between mammals and insects and for coping with the problem of insecticide resistance.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / drug effects
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insecticides / toxicity*
  • Neuromuscular Depolarizing Agents / toxicity
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Sodium Channels / drug effects*


  • Insecticides
  • Neuromuscular Depolarizing Agents
  • Sodium Channels