Effects of the carbamates fenoxycarb, propamocarb and propoxur on energy supply, glucose utilization and SH-groups in neurons

Arch Toxicol. 2004 Jun;78(6):330-7. doi: 10.1007/s00204-004-0546-3. Epub 2004 Feb 19.


Carbamates belonged to an older insecticide group, with propoxur being representative of this group. However, today carbamates with hormonal effects on insects, like fenoxycarb, or with fungicide properties, like propamocarb, are also used. The goal was a comparison of three structurally and functional different carbamates with a possibly common toxicological mechanism. Primary neuronal cell cultures of the rat are a well established model to identify neurotoxic compounds like n-hexane or acrylamide. In this cell culture model endpoints such as viability, energy supply, glucose consumption, glutathione (GSH) levels and cytoskeleton elements were determined. Added to cultured rat cortical neurons for 1 week, fenoxycarb, propamocarb and propoxur considerably decreased ATP levels, mitochondrial membrane potential and glucose consumption. Besides this, fenoxycarb and propamocarb had an impact on neurofilaments. After recovery for 1 week, propoxur also showed effects on neurofilaments, whereas with the other carbamates no tendency for a recovery was seen. These effects were prevented completely by pyruvate for propoxur and propamocarb, and partly so for fenoxycarb. In contrast to the main experimental design, GSH was determined after 1-h treatment with the test substances. Surprisingly, the compounds had only slight or no effect on the GSH level within this time. Further mechanistic studies indicated that carbamates primarily interacted with SH-groups, most likely by interfering with glycolysis and the construction of fibrillary proteins like neurofilaments. The prevention by pyruvate and acetylcysteine pointed to these biochemical endpoints.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcysteine / pharmacology
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Carbamates / toxicity*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects*
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Insecticides / toxicity*
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Phenylcarbamates / toxicity
  • Propoxur / toxicity
  • Rats
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds / metabolism*


  • Carbamates
  • Insecticides
  • Phenylcarbamates
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds
  • propamocarb
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Propoxur
  • Glutathione
  • Glucose
  • fenoxycarb
  • Acetylcysteine