Comparison of the Toxic Effects of Quinolinic Acid and 3-Nitropropionic Acid in C. elegans: Involvement of the SKN-1 Pathway

Neurotox Res. 2018 Feb;33(2):259-267. doi: 10.1007/s12640-017-9794-x. Epub 2017 Aug 18.


The tryptophan metabolite, quinolinic acid (QUIN), and the mitochondrial toxin 3-nitropropionic acid (3-NP) are two important tools for toxicological research commonly used in neurotoxic models of excitotoxicity, oxidative stress, energy depletion, and neuronal cell death in mammals. However, their toxic properties have yet to be explored in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) for the establishment of novel, simpler, complementary, alternative, and predictive neurotoxic model of mammalian neurotoxicity. In this work, the effects of QUIN (1-100 mM) and 3-NP (1-10 mM) were evaluated on various physiological parameters (survival, locomotion, and longevity) in a wild-type (WT) strand of C. elegans (N2). Their effects were also tested in the VC1772 strain (knock out for the antioxidant SKN-1 pathway) and the VP596 strain (worms with a reporter gene for glutathione S-transferase (GST) transcription) in order to establish the role of the SKN-1 pathway in the mode of action of QUIN and 3-NP. In N2, the higher doses of both toxins decreased survival, though only QUIN altered motor activity. Both toxins also reduced longevity in the VC1772 strain (as compared to N2 strain) and augmented GST transcription in the VP596 strain at the highest doses. The changes induced by both toxins require high doses, and therefore appear moderate when compared with other toxic agents. Nevertheless, the alterations produced by QUIN and 3-NP in C. elegans are relevant to mammalian neurotoxicity as they provide novel mechanistic approaches to the assessment of neurotoxic events comprising oxidative stress and excitotoxicity, in the nematode model.

Keywords: Excitotoxicity; Huntington’s disease; NMDA; SKN-1; VC1772; VP596.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antihypertensive Agents / toxicity*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / drug effects*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism
  • Corpus Striatum / drug effects
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / drug effects*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / metabolism
  • Nitro Compounds / toxicity*
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Propionates / toxicity*
  • Quinolinic Acid / toxicity*
  • Transcription Factors / drug effects*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Antihypertensive Agents
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Nitro Compounds
  • Propionates
  • Transcription Factors
  • skn-1 protein, C elegans
  • Quinolinic Acid
  • 3-nitropropionic acid