Impaired innate and conditioned social behavior in adult C57Bl6/J mice prenatally exposed to chlorpyrifos

Anat Lan, Daniel Stein, Miguel Portillo, Debra Toiber, Ora Kofman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background: Signs of pervasive developmental disorder and social deficits were reported in toddlers and children whose mothers were exposed to organophosphate pesticides during pregnancy. Deficits in social preference were reported in adult male mice exposed to chlorpyrifos on gestational days 12-15. This study aimed (a) to test the hypothesis that adult female and male mice that were exposed prenatally to subtoxic doses of chlorpyrifos would be impaired in social behavior and (b) to determine if prenatal chlorpyrifos altered the expression of transcripts for oxytocin in the hypothalamus. Pregnant mice were treated by gavage with corn oil vehicle or 2.5 mg/kg or 5 mg/kg of CPF on gestational days 12-15. Social preference, social and non-social conditioned place preference tasks were tested in adults. Expression of oxytocin transcripts in hypothalamus was measured by qPCR. Results: Chlorpyrifos (5 mg/kg on GD 12-15) reduced the innate preference for a conspecific in a dose and sex dependent manner. Adult males exposed prenatally to 5 mg/kg CPF showed a reduction in social preference. Socially conditioned place preference was impaired in offspring of dams treated with either dose of CPF. Non-social appetitive place conditioning was impaired in offspring of dams exposed to 2.5 mg/kg, but not to 5 mg/kg chlorpyrifos. Prenatal chlorpyrifos treatment did not alter the expression of the oxytocin mRNA in the hypothalamus, although expression was significantly lower in females. Conclusions: Prenatal chlorpyrifos induced innate and learned social deficits and non-specific conditioning deficits in adult mice in a sex-dependent manner. Males showed specific social deficits following the higher dose whereas both males and females showed a more generalized conditioning deficit following the intermediate dose.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2
JournalBehavioral and Brain Functions
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2019


  • Chlorpyrifos
  • Organophosphate pesticides
  • Oxytocin
  • Prenatal exposure
  • Social behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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