Toxicological sciences : an official journal of the Society of Toxicology

The insecticide synergist piperonyl butoxide inhibits hedgehog signaling: assessing chemical risks.

PMID 22552772


The spread of chemicals, including insecticides, into the environment often raises public health concerns, as exemplified by a recent epidemiologic study associating in utero piperonyl butoxide (PBO) exposure with delayed mental development. The insecticide synergist PBO is listed among the top 10 chemicals detected in indoor dust; a systematic assessment of risks from PBO exposure, as for many toxicants unfortunately, may be underdeveloped when important biological targets that can cause toxicity are unknown. Hedgehog/Smoothened signaling is critical in neurological development. This study was designed to use novel high-throughput in vitro drug screening technology to identify modulators of Hedgehog signaling in environmental chemicals to assist the assessment of their potential risks. A directed library of 1408 environmental toxicants was screened for Hedgehog/Smoothened antagonist activity using a high-content assay that evaluated the interaction between Smoothened and βarrestin2 green fluorescent protein. PBO was identified as a Hedgehog/Smoothened antagonist capable of inhibiting Hedgehog signaling. We found that PBO bound Smoothened and blocked Smoothened overexpression-induced Gli-luciferase reporter activity but had no effect on Gli-1 downstream transcriptional factor-induced Gli activity. PBO inhibited Sonic Hedgehog ligand-induced Gli signaling and mouse cerebellar granular precursor cell proliferation. Moreover, PBO disrupted zebrafish development. Our findings demonstrate the value of high-throughput target-based screening strategies that can successfully evaluate large numbers of environmental toxicants and identify key targets and unknown biological activity that is helpful in properly assessing potential risks.

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