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Malathion is one of the most widely used organophosphorus insecticides in agriculture. However, malathion may be involved in the etiology of human brain dysfunction. Induction of ROS has been proposed as a mechanism of malathion-induced poisoning cases, but there are few data regarding the effects of malathion on oxidative stress-associated neurotoxicity in human glial cells. The aim was to explore the mechanism underlying effects of malathion on neurotoxicity in Gibco® Human Astrocytes (GHA cells) and evaluate the protective effects of the antioxidant (N-acetylcysteine, NAC). Cell viability was measured by the cell proliferation reagent (WST-1). Antioxidant enzymes (glutathione peroxidase and catalase) were measured by an ELISA reader. Cell cycle distribution and ROS productions were detected by flow cytometry. Cell cycle-related protein levels (cyclin E1, CDK2, cyclin A2, CDK1/CDC2, or cyclin B1) and apoptotic protein levels (Bcl-2, Bax, and cleaved caspase-9/caspase-3) were analyzed by Western blotting. In GHA cells, treatment with malathion (10-25 μM) for 24 h concentration-dependently induced cytotoxicity and cell cycle arrest. In terms of oxidative stresses, malathion elevated intracellular ROS levels, but reduced glutathion and antioxidant enzyme levels. Treatment with NAC (5 μM) reversed malathion-induced oxidative stress responses, and prevented malathion-evoked apoptosis by regulating apoptotic protein expressions. Together, in GHA cells, NAC mediated inhibition of malathion-activated mitochondrial apoptotic pathways that involved cell cycle arrest and ROS responses. These data provide further insights into the molecular mechanisms behind malathion poisoning, and might suggest that NAC with its protective effects may be a potential compound for prevention of malathion-induced brain injury.
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