The sarin-like organophosphorus agent bis(isopropyl methyl)phosphonate induces ER stress in human astrocytoma cells

J Toxicol Sci. 2016;41(5):617-25. doi: 10.2131/jts.41.617.


Organophosphorus (OP) compounds such as sarin are toxic agents that irreversibly inhibit the enzyme acetylcholinesterase. A recent study showed that OP compounds also have multiple toxicity mechanisms, and another suggested that endoplasmic reticulum (ER) dysfunction contributes to OP toxicity. However, the signaling pathway and mechanisms involved are poorly understood. We examined whether the sarin-like OP agent bis(isopropyl methyl)phosphonate (BIMP), which exhibits toxicity similar to that of sarin, induced ER stress in human astrocytoma CCF-STTG1 cells. Our results demonstrate that BIMP exposure reduced cell viability. Moreover, it induced changes in mitochondrial membrane potential and increased cleavage of caspase 3. Treatment with BIMP increased the mRNA levels of the ER stress marker genes binding immunoglobulin protein (BiP) and the transcription factor C/EBP homologous protein (CHOP). Furthermore, BIMP increased the protein expressions and phosphorylation of BiP, CHOP, and protein kinase RNA-like ER kinase and the phosphorylation of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2. Compared to BIMP treatment alone, pretreatment with the CHOP siRNA, siCHOP, decreased BIMP-dependent CHOP expression and improved CCF-STTG1 cell viability. Our findings suggest that BIMP induced mitochondrial dysfunction and apoptotic cell death event mediated by ER stress in CCF-STTG1 cells and that treatment targeted at managing ER stress has the potential to attenuate the toxicity of OP nerve agents.

MeSH terms

  • Astrocytoma / genetics
  • Astrocytoma / metabolism*
  • Astrocytoma / pathology
  • Caspase 3 / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Diphosphonates / toxicity*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Chaperone BiP
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress / drug effects*
  • Eukaryotic Initiation Factor-2 / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / genetics
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Membrane Potential, Mitochondrial / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / drug effects*
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mitochondria / pathology
  • Organophosphate Poisoning / etiology*
  • Organophosphate Poisoning / metabolism
  • Organophosphate Poisoning / pathology
  • Phosphorylation
  • RNA Interference
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Time Factors
  • Transcription Factor CHOP / genetics
  • Transcription Factor CHOP / metabolism
  • Transfection
  • eIF-2 Kinase / metabolism


  • DDIT3 protein, human
  • Diphosphonates
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Chaperone BiP
  • Eukaryotic Initiation Factor-2
  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • bis(isopropyl methyl)phosphonate
  • Transcription Factor CHOP
  • PERK kinase
  • eIF-2 Kinase
  • CASP3 protein, human
  • Caspase 3