Neurotoxicity of pesticides

  • Jason R. RichardsonEmail author
  • Vanessa Fitsanakis
  • Remco H. S. Westerink
  • Anumantha G. Kanthasamy


Pesticides are unique environmental contaminants that are specifically introduced into the environment to control pests, often by killing them. Although pesticide application serves many important purposes, including protection against crop loss and against vector-borne diseases, there are significant concerns over the potential toxic effects of pesticides to non-target organisms, including humans. In many cases, the molecular target of a pesticide is shared by non-target species, leading to the potential for untoward effects. Here, we review the history of pesticide usage and the neurotoxicity of selected classes of pesticides, including insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides, to humans and experimental animals. Specific emphasis is given to linkages between exposure to pesticides and risk of neurological disease and dysfunction in humans coupled with mechanistic findings in humans and animal models. Finally, we discuss emerging techniques and strategies to improve translation from animal models to humans.


Pesticide Neurotoxicity Neurodegeneration Organophosphate Pyrethroid Rotenone Pyridaben Mitochondrial Complex I Glyphosate Organochlorine Dieldrin Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane Endosulfan Microelectrode array Zebrafish iPSC Paraquat Fungicide 



2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid




Alzheimer’s disease


Adverse outcome pathway


Apolipoprotein E


Blood–brain barrier








Diarrhea, urination miosis/muscle weakness, broncorrhea, bradycardia, emesis, lacrimation, salivation/sweating


US Environmental Protection Agency


US Food and Drug Administration






Interleukin 6


Inducible nitric oxide synthase


Induced pluripotent stem cell


Microelectrode array


Magnetic resonance imaging


Manganese ethylene-bis-dithiocarbamate


Manganese/Zinc ethylene-bis-dithiocarbamate






NADPH oxidase 2


Neural stem cell




Organophosphate-induced delayed neuropathy


Parkinson’s disease


Protein kinase C


Secretogranin II


Superoxide dismutase


Substantia nigra pars compacta


Salivation, lacrimation, urination, diarrhea


Tri-ortho-cresyl phosphate


Tumor necrosis factor alpha


Ubiquitin–proteasome system


World health organization



JRR was supported by National Institutes of Health Grants R01ES021800, R01ES026057, U01NS108956, and U01NS079249. VF was supported by R15ES027998. AGK was supported by National Institutes of Health R01 Grants ES027245, NS088206, ES026892, and NS10090. The Eugene and Linda Lloyd Endowed Chair and Eminent Scholar and Armbrust Endowment support to AGK are also acknowledged. He also thanks Drs. Adhithiya Charlie, Huajun Jin, and Mr. Gary Zenitsky for their assistance in preparing this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Robert Stempel School of Public Health and Social WorkFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  2. 2.Department of Pharmaceutical SciencesNortheast Ohio Medical UniversityRootstownUSA
  3. 3.Neurotoxicology Research Group, Toxicology Division, Institute for Risk Assessment SciencesUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Department of Biomedical Sciences and Iowa Center for Advanced NeurotoxicologyIowa State UniversityAmesUSA

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