Low-dose sarin exposure produces long term changes in brain neurochemistry of mice

Neurochem Res. 2013 Jan;38(1):108-16. doi: 10.1007/s11064-012-0896-9. Epub 2012 Oct 10.


Sarin is a toxic organophosphorus (OP) nerve agent that has been reported to cause long-term alterations in behavioral and neuropsychological processes. The present study was designed to investigate the effect of low dose sarin exposure on the monoamine neurotransmitter systems in various brain regions of mice. The rationale was to expand our knowledge about the noncholinergic neurochemical alterations associated with low dose exposure to this cholinesterase inhibitor. We analyzed the levels of monoamines and their metabolites in different brain areas after exposure of male C57BL/6 mice to a subclinical dose of sarin (0.4 LD50). Mice did not show any signs of cholinergic toxicity or pathological changes in brain tissue. At 1, 4 and 8 weeks post-sarin exposure brains were collected for neurochemical analysis. A significant decrease in the dopamine (DA) turnover, as measured by the metabolite to parent ratio, was observed in the frontal cerebral cortex (FC) at all time points tested. DA turnover was significantly increased in the amygdala at 4 weeks but not at 1 or 8 weeks after exposure. The caudate nucleus displayed a decrease in DA turnover at 1 week but no significant change was observed at 4 and 8 weeks suggesting a reversible effect. In addition to this, serotonin (5-HT) levels were transiently altered at various time points in all the brain regions studied (increase in FC, caudate nucleus and decrease in amygdala). Since there were no signs of cholinergic toxicity or cell death after sarin exposure, different non-cholinergic mechanisms may be involved in regulating these effects. Our results demonstrate that non-symptomatic dose of OP nerve agent sarin has potent long-term, region-specific effects on the monoaminergic neurotransmitter systems. Data also suggests differential effects of sarin on the various DA projections. These neurochemical alterations could be associated with long term behavioral and neuropsychological changes associated with low dose OP exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Chemistry / drug effects*
  • Chemical Warfare Agents / toxicity*
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors / toxicity*
  • Cholinesterases / metabolism
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Electrochemistry
  • Fluoresceins
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Homovanillic Acid / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism
  • Sarin / toxicity*
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Weight Loss / drug effects


  • Chemical Warfare Agents
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors
  • Fluoresceins
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • fluoro jade
  • Serotonin
  • Sarin
  • Cholinesterases
  • Dopamine
  • Norepinephrine
  • Homovanillic Acid