Global gene expression in rat brain and liver after oral exposure to the explosive hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine (RDX)

Chem Res Toxicol. 2009 Apr;22(4):620-5. doi: 10.1021/tx800444k.


RDX (hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine) is a synthetic, high-impact, relatively stable explosive that has been in use since WWII. Exposure to RDX can occur in occupational settings (e.g., during manufacture) or through the inadvertent ingestion of contaminated environmental media such as groundwater. The toxicology of RDX is dominated by acute clonic-tonic seizures at high doses, which remit when exposure is removed and internal RDX levels decrease. Subchronic studies have revealed few other measurable toxic effects. The objective of this study was to examine the acute effects of RDX on the mammalian brain and liver using global gene expression analysis based on a predetermined maximum internal dose. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were given a single, oral, nonseizure-inducing dose of either 3 or 18 mg/kg RDX in a gel capsule. Effects on gene expression in the cerebral cortex and liver were assessed using Affymetrix Rat Genome 230 2.0 whole genome arrays at 0, 3.5, 24, and 48 h postexposure. RDX blood and brain tissue concentrations rapidly increased between 0 and 3.5 h, followed by decreases at 24 h to below the detection limit at 48 h. Pairwise comparison of high and low doses at each time point showed dramatic differential changes in gene expression at 3.5 h, the time of peak RDX in brain and blood. Using Gene Ontology, biological processes that affected neurotransmission were shown to be primarily down-regulated in the brain, the target organ of toxicity, while those that affected metabolism were up-regulated in the liver, the site of metabolism. Overall, these results demonstrate that a single oral dose of RDX is quickly absorbed and transported into the brain where processes related to neurotransmission are negatively affected, consistent with a potential excitotoxic response, whereas in the liver there was a positive effect on biological processes potentially associated with RDX metabolism.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Explosive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Explosive Agents / toxicity*
  • Gene Expression / drug effects*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Time Factors
  • Triazines / administration & dosage
  • Triazines / toxicity*


  • Explosive Agents
  • Triazines
  • cyclonite