Neonicotinoid Insecticides Alter the Gene Expression Profile of Neuron-Enriched Cultures from Neonatal Rat Cerebellum

Neonicotinoids are considered safe because of their low affinities to mammalian nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) relative to insect nAChRs. However, because of importance of nAChRs in mammalian brain development, there remains a need to establish the safety of chronic neonicotinoid exposures with regards to children’s health. Here we examined the effects of long-term (14 days) and low dose (1 μM) exposure of neuron-enriched cultures from neonatal rat cerebellum to nicotine and two neonicotinoids: acetamiprid and imidacloprid. Immunocytochemistry revealed no differences in the number or morphology of immature neurons or glial cells in any group versus untreated control cultures. However, a slight disturbance in Purkinje cell dendritic arborization was observed in the exposed cultures. Next we performed transcriptome analysis on total RNAs using microarrays, and identified significant differential expression (p < 0.05, q < 0.05, ≥1.5 fold) between control cultures versus nicotine-, acetamiprid-, or imidacloprid-exposed cultures in 34, 48, and 67 genes, respectively. Common to all exposed groups were nine genes essential for neurodevelopment, suggesting that chronic neonicotinoid exposure alters the transcriptome of the developing mammalian brain in a similar way to nicotine exposure. Our results highlight the need for further careful investigations into the effects of neonicotinoids in the developing mammalian brain.

Kimura-Kuroda J et al. (2016) Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 13(10), 987; doi:10.3390/ijerph13100987