Chronic Chlorpyrifos Exposure Elicits Diet-Specific Effects on Metabolism and the Gut Microbiome in Rats

Food Chem Toxicol. 2018 Jan;111:144-152. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2017.11.001. Epub 2017 Nov 3.


Chlorpyrifos is a commonly-used pesticide which was reported to interfere with hormone signaling and metabolism, however, little is known about its effect on gut microbiota. In this study, adult male rats fed a normal (NF) or high fat (HF) diet were exposed to 0.3 or 3.0 mg chlorpyrifos/kg bodyweight/day or vehicle alone for 9 weeks. Effects on bodyweight, serum levels of glucose, lipid, cytokines, and gut microbiome community structure were measured. The effects of chlorpyrifos on metabolism were dose- and diet-dependent, with NF-fed rats administered the low dose showing the largest metabolic changes. NF-fed rats exposed to chlorpyrifos exhibited a pro-obesity phenotype compared with their controls, whereas there was no difference in pro-obesity phenotype between HF-fed groups. Chlorpyrifos exposure significantly reduced serum insulin, C-peptide, and amylin concentrations in NF- and HF-fed rats, leaving serum glucose and lipid profiles unaffected. Chlorpyrifos exposure also significantly altered gut microbiota composition, including the abundance of opportunistic pathogens, short chain fatty acid-producing bacteria and other bacteria previously associated with obese and diabetic phenotypes. The abundance of bacteria associated with neurotoxicity and islet injury was also significantly increased by chlorpyrifos. Our results suggest risk assessments for chlorpyrifos exposure should consider other effects in addition to neurotoxicity.

Keywords: 16S rRNA gene sequencing; Glucose metabolism; Hormone; Lipid metabolism; Pancreas islet; Pesticide.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Chlorpyrifos / toxicity*
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors / toxicity
  • Diet*
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects*
  • Lipids / blood
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Blood Glucose
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors
  • Lipids
  • Chlorpyrifos