Sex-Specific Effects of Organophosphate Diazinon on the Gut Microbiome and Its Metabolic Functions

Environ Health Perspect. 2017 Feb;125(2):198-206. doi: 10.1289/EHP202. Epub 2016 May 20.


Background: There is growing recognition of the significance of the gut microbiome to human health, and the association between a perturbed gut microbiome with human diseases has been established. Previous studies also show the role of environmental toxicants in perturbing the gut microbiome and its metabolic functions. The wide agricultural use of diazinon, an organophosphate insecticide, has raised serious environmental health concerns since it is a potent neurotoxicant. With studies demonstrating the presence of a microbiome-gut-brain axis, it is possible that gut microbiome perturbation may also contribute to diazinon toxicity.

Objectives: We investigated the impact of diazinon exposure on the gut microbiome composition and its metabolic functions in C57BL/6 mice.

Methods: We used a combination of 16S rRNA gene sequencing, metagenomics sequencing, and mass spectrometry-based metabolomics profiling in a mouse model to examine the functional impact of diazinon on the gut microbiome.

Results: 16S rRNA gene sequencing revealed that diazinon exposure significantly perturbed the gut microbiome, and metagenomic sequencing found that diazinon exposure altered the functional metagenome. Moreover, metabolomics profiling revealed an altered metabolic profile arising from exposure. Of particular significance, these changes were more pronounced for male mice than for female mice.

Conclusions: Diazinon exposure perturbed the gut microbiome community structure, functional metagenome, and associated metabolic profiles in a sex-specific manner. These findings may provide novel insights regarding perturbations of the gut microbiome and its functions as a potential new mechanism contributing to diazinon neurotoxicity and, in particular, its sex-selective effects. Citation: Gao B, Bian X, Mahbub R, Lu K. 2017. Sex-specific effects of organophosphate diazinon on the gut microbiome and its metabolic functions. Environ Health Perspect 125:198-206;

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diazinon / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology
  • Gastrointestinal Tract
  • Humans
  • Insecticides / toxicity*
  • Male
  • Metabolome / drug effects*
  • Metabolome / physiology
  • Metagenome / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microbiota / drug effects*
  • Microbiota / physiology
  • Sex Factors
  • Toxicity Tests


  • Insecticides
  • Diazinon