Dose-related gene expression changes in forebrain following acute, low-level chlorpyrifos exposure in neonatal rats

Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2010 Oct 15;248(2):144-55. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2010.07.026. Epub 2010 Aug 5.


Chlorpyrifos (CPF) is a widely used organophosphorus insecticide (OP) and putative developmental neurotoxicant in humans. The acute toxicity of CPF is elicited by acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibition. We characterized dose-related (0.1, 0.5, 1 and 2mg/kg) gene expression profiles and changes in cell signaling pathways 24h following acute CPF exposure in 7-day-old rats. Microarray experiments indicated that approximately 9% of the 44,000 genes were differentially expressed following either one of the four CPF dosages studied (546, 505, 522, and 3,066 genes with 0.1, 0.5, 1.0 and 2.0mg/kg CPF). Genes were grouped according to dose-related expression patterns using K-means clustering while gene networks and canonical pathways were evaluated using Ingenuity Pathway Analysis®. Twenty clusters were identified and differential expression of selected genes was verified by RT-PCR. The four largest clusters (each containing from 276 to 905 genes) constituted over 50% of all differentially expressed genes and exhibited up-regulation following exposure to the highest dosage (2mg/kg CPF). The total number of gene networks affected by CPF also rose sharply with the highest dosage of CPF (18, 16, 18 and 50 with 0.1, 0.5, 1 and 2mg/kg CPF). Forebrain cholinesterase (ChE) activity was significantly reduced (26%) only in the highest dosage group. Based on magnitude of dose-related changes in differentially expressed genes, relative numbers of gene clusters and signaling networks affected, and forebrain ChE inhibition only at 2mg/kg CPF, we focused subsequent analyses on this treatment group. Six canonical pathways were identified that were significantly affected by 2mg/kg CPF (MAPK, oxidative stress, NFΚB, mitochondrial dysfunction, arylhydrocarbon receptor and adrenergic receptor signaling). Evaluation of different cellular functions of the differentially expressed genes suggested changes related to olfactory receptors, cell adhesion/migration, synapse/synaptic transmission and transcription/translation. Nine genes were differentially affected in all four CPF dosing groups. We conclude that the most robust, consistent changes in differential gene expression in neonatal forebrain across a range of acute CPF dosages occurred at an exposure level associated with the classical marker of OP toxicity, AChE inhibition. Disruption of multiple cellular pathways, in particular cell adhesion, may contribute to the developmental neurotoxicity potential of this pesticide.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Chlorpyrifos / toxicity*
  • Cholinesterases / metabolism
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / toxicity
  • Gene Expression / drug effects*
  • Growth and Development / drug effects
  • Insecticides / toxicity*
  • Prosencephalon / drug effects*
  • Prosencephalon / growth & development
  • Prosencephalon / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Insecticides
  • Cholinesterases
  • Chlorpyrifos