Environmental Research, 140, 2015, 37-44
Fungicides are crucial for food protection as well as for the production of crops of suitable quality and quantity to provide a viable economic return. Like other pesticides, fungicides are widely sprayed on agricultural land, especially in wine-growing areas, from where they can move-off after application. Furthermore, residues of these agrochemicals can remain on crops after harvest and even after some food processing operations, being a major exposure pathway. Although a relatively low toxicity has been claimed for this kind of compounds, information about their neurotoxicity is still scarce.
In the present study, nine fungicides recently approved for agricultural uses in the EU ― ametoctradin, boscalid, cyazofamid, dimethomorph, fenhexamid, kresoxim-methyl, mepanipyrim, metrafenone and pyraclostrobin ― have been evaluated for their toxicity in primary cultured mouse cortical neurons. Exposure to 0.1–100 µM for 7 days in vitro resulted in a dose-dependent toxicity in the MTT cell viability assay. Strobilurin fungicides kresoxim-methyl (KR) and pyraclostrobin (PY) were the most neurotoxic compounds (lethal concentration 50 were in the low micromolar and nanomolar levels, respectively) causing a rapid raise in intracellular calcium [Ca2+]i and strong depolarization of mitochondrial membrane potential. KR- and PY-induced cell death was reversed by the calcium channels blockers MK-801 and verapamil, suggesting that calcium entry through NMDA receptors and voltage-operated calcium channels are involved in KR- and PY-induced neurotoxicity. These results highlight the need for further evaluation of their neurotoxic effects in vivo.