Behavioral and biochemical effects of neonicotinoid thiamethoxam on the cholinergic system in rats
ABSTRACT Thiamethoxam is a neonicotinoid insecticide, a group of pesticides that acts selectively on insect nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), with only a little action on mammalian nAChRs. Nevertheless, the selectivity of neonicotinoids for the insect nAChRs may change when these substances are metabolized. Therefore, we aimed to determine the potential effects of thiamethoxam on mammalian brain, testing the performance in the open field and elevated plus-maze of rats exposed to this insecticide and, in order to establish the neurochemical endpoints, we measured the acetylcholinesterase activity in different brain regions (hippocampus, striatum and cortex) and the high-affinity choline uptake (HACU) in synaptosomes from rat hippocampus. Treated animals received thiamethoxam (25, 50 or 100 mg/kg) for 7 consecutive days. The results showed that treatment with thiamethoxam induced an increase in the anxiety behavior at two doses (50 or 100 mg/kg). Moreover, there was a significant decrease in both HACU and acetylcholinesterase activity. Our hypothesis is that thiamethoxam (or its metabolites) could be acting on the central rats nAChRs. This would produce an alteration on the cholinergic transmission, modulating the anxiety behavior, acetylcholinesterase levels and HACU.