Alterations in central nervous system serotonergic and dopaminergic synaptic activity in adulthood after prenatal or neonatal chlorpyrifos exposure

Environ Health Perspect. 2005 Aug;113(8):1027-31. doi: 10.1289/ehp.7968.


Exposure to chlorpyrifos (CPF) alters neuronal development of serotonin (5HT) and dopamine systems, and we recently found long-term alterations in behaviors related to 5HT function. To characterize the synaptic mechanisms underlying these effects, we exposed developing rats to CPF regimens below the threshold for systemic toxicity, in three treatment windows: gestational days (GD) 17-20, postnatal days (PN) 1-4, or PN11-14. In early adulthood (PN60), we assessed basal neurotransmitter content and synaptic activity (turnover) in brain regions containing the major 5HT and dopamine projections. CPF exposure on GD17-20 or PN1-4 evoked long-term increases in 5HT turnover across multiple regions; the effects were not secondary to changes in neurotransmitter content, which was unaffected or even decreased. When the treatment window was shifted to PN11-14, there were no long-term effects. Dopamine turnover also showed significant increases after CPF exposure on GD17-20, but only when the dose was raised above the threshold for overt toxicity; however, hippocampal dopamine content was profoundly subnormal after exposures below or above the acute, toxic threshold, suggesting outright neurotoxicity. These results indicate that, in a critical developmental period, apparently nontoxic exposures to CPF produce lasting activation of 5HT systems in association with 5HT-associated behavioral anomalies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • 3,4-Dihydroxyphenylacetic Acid / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Chlorpyrifos / toxicity*
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Female
  • Homovanillic Acid / metabolism
  • Insecticides / toxicity*
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Serotonin / metabolism*
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects


  • Insecticides
  • 3,4-Dihydroxyphenylacetic Acid
  • Serotonin
  • Chlorpyrifos
  • Dopamine
  • Homovanillic Acid