Age- and diet-specific effects of chronic exposure to chlorpyrifos on hormones, inflammation and gut microbiota in rats

Pestic Biochem Physiol. 2019 Sep;159:68-79. doi: 10.1016/j.pestbp.2019.05.018. Epub 2019 May 27.


Chlorpyrifos is a pesticide frequently detected in food and has been reported to disturb endocrine and gut health, which was regulated by gut microbiota and enteroendocrine cells. In this study, newly weaned (3 week) and adult (8 week) male rats fed a normal- or high- fat diet were chronically exposed to 0.3 mg chlorpyrifos/kg bodyweight/day. The effects of chlorpyrifos exposure on serum hormone levels, proinflammatory cytokines and gut microbiota were evaluated. Chronic exposure to chlorpyrifos significantly decreased the concentrations of luteinizing hormone, follicule stimulating hormone and testosterone, which was found only in the normal-fat diet. The counteracted effect of high-fat diet was also found in gut hormones and proinflammatory cytokines. Significantly higher concentrations of glucagon-like peptide-1, pancreatic polypeptide, peptide tyrosine tyrosine (PYY), ghrelin, gastric inhibitory poly-peptide, IL-6, monocyte chemoattractant protein-1, and TNF-α were found in rats exposed to chlorpyrifos beginning at newly weaned, whereas only the PYY, ghrelin and IL-6 concentrations increased significantly in rats exposed in adulthood. Furthermore, a decrease in epinephrine induced by chlorpyrifos exposure was found in rats exposed to chlorpyrifos beginning at newly weaned, regardless of their diet. Chlorpyrifos-induced disturbances in the microbiome community structure were more apparent in rats fed a high-fat diet and exposed beginning at newly weaned. The affected bacteria included short-chain fatty acid-producing bacteria (Romboutsia, Turicibacter, Clostridium sensu stricto 1, norank_f_Coriobacteriaceae, Faecalibaculum, Parasutterella and norank_f__Erysipelotrichaceae), testosterone-related genus (Turicibacter, Brevibacterium), pathogenic bacteria (Streptococcus), and inflammation-related bacteria (unclassified_f__Ruminococcaceae, Ruminococcaceae_UCG-009, Parasutterella, Oscillibacter), which regulated the endocrine system via the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, as well as the immune response and gut barrier. Early exposure accelerated the endocrine-disturbing effect and immune responses of chlorpyrifos, although these effects can be eased or recovered by a high-fat diet. This study helped clarify the relationship between disrupted endocrine function and gut microbiota dysbiosis induced by food contaminants such as pesticides.

Keywords: 16S rRNA gene sequencing; Gut endocrine; Gut-brain axis; Hormone; Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis; Inflammation.

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Chlorpyrifos / toxicity*
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects*
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / drug effects
  • Inflammation / chemically induced*
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Male
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / drug effects
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / metabolism*
  • Rats


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Chlorpyrifos