Publication Date


Document Type


Committee Members

Thomas Brown (Committee Member), David Cool (Advisor), James Olson (Committee Member), Daniel Organisciak (Committee Member), Courtney Sulentic (Committee Member)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Chlorpyrifos (CPF) is a well-known organophosphate (OP) insecticide that inhibits acetylcholinesterase (AChE). Organophosphates have been shown to induce hyperglycemia in both humans and animals that cannot be explained by AChE inhibition alone. Pancreatic β-cells are responsible for secreting insulin and playing a fundamental role in glucose homeostasis. The aim of this research was to investigate CPF toxicity on the insulin secreting β-cell line RINm5f (RIN). In the first part of this dissertation, we determined that cytotoxic concentrations of CPF between 50 µM and 200 µM induced a dose-dependent increase in RIN cell apoptotic and necrotic death (p<0.05). Lower doses, i.e., 5-25 µM did not induce apoptosis or necrosis. In further mechanistic studies, inhibitors of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) and P38 pathways, i.e., SP600125 and SB202190, successfully attenuated CPF-induced apoptosis (p<0.05), suggesting cell death is mediated by JNK and/or p38. In addition, N-Acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC), an antioxidant, inhibited apoptosis suggesting that oxidative stress is also involved in RIN cell death. In the second part of this dissertation, low dose CPF's effects on insulin synthesis and secretion was studied. Our results showed that RIN cells treated with CPF for 4 hr exhibited a dose-dependent decrease in insulin secretion in response to stimulation by 50 mM potassium (p<0.05). Insulin secretion stimulated by 25 mM glucose also showed significant decreases upon incubation with various doses of CPF (p<0.05). Insulin synthesis involves proteolytic cleavage of proinsulin at two specific sites. The enzymes responsible for promoting proinsulin cleavage, i.e, prohormone convertase (PC) 1/3 and 2 (PC2), contain a serine hydrolase catalytic triad, His-Asp-Ser, similar to AChE. CPF modification of PC enzymes similar to AChE, could potentially interrupt the conversion of proinsulin to insulin and disrupt insulin secretion. PC2 enzyme activity was significantly inhibited by CPF at concentrations as low as 10 µM (p<0.01). RIN cells, for the first time, were found to secrete proinsulin was through a constitutive instead of a regulated pathway. In summary, our results show that CPF not only exerts a direct cytotoxic effect at concentrations above 50 µM, but also significantly impairs insulin secretion at lower doses. Low dose CPF could potentially affect endocrine function in vivo by inhibiting the proinsulin processing enzyme PC2.

Page Count


Department or Program

Biomedical Sciences

Year Degree Awarded