Developmental chlorpyrifos and methyl parathion exposure alters radial-arm maze performance in juvenile and adult rats

Toxicol Sci. 2009 May;109(1):132-42. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfp053. Epub 2009 Mar 17.


Although the use of organophosphate (OP) insecticides has been restricted, sufficient exposure can occur to induce detrimental neurobehavioral effects. In this study, we measured physical and reflex development and spatial learning and memory in rats repeatedly exposed to incremental doses of chlorpyrifos (CPS) and methyl parathion (MPS) from postnatal day (PND) 1 to PND21. Other than decreased body weight in the higher dosage groups, no effects on physical or reflex development were observed. Significant hippocampal cholinesterase inhibition was induced in all treatment groups for up to 19 days following exposure. Beginning on PND36, working and reference memory was tested using a 12-arm radial maze, with subject animals trained and tested 4 days a week for 4 weeks. In males, working memory was decreased with the medium and high dosage of MPS but only the high dosage of CPS; while in females, no deficits were observed. For reference memory, errors were significantly increased in males exposed to the high dosage of CPS and all dosages of MPS. In females, enhanced performance was observed within the medium and high dosages of CPS but not with MPS. These data show that repeated developmental exposure to OP insecticides can induce sex-selective alterations and long-lasting changes in spatial learning and memory formation when measured using a radial arm maze and that MPS and CPS induce different neurobehavioral outcomes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Chlorpyrifos / toxicity*
  • Cholinesterases / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / enzymology
  • Insecticides / toxicity*
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / drug effects*
  • Methyl Parathion / toxicity*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Insecticides
  • Methyl Parathion
  • Cholinesterases
  • Chlorpyrifos