Immunomodulatory effects of the herbicide propanil on cytokine production in humans: In vivo and in vitro exposure

Emanuela Corsini, Ilaria Codecà, Simona Mangiaratti, Sarah Birindelli, Claudio Minoia, Roberta Turci, Barbara Viviani, Alessandra Facchi, Nora Vitelli, Laura Lucchi, Corrado L. Galli, Marina Marinovich, Claudio Colosio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Propanil, 3,4-dichloropropionanilide, a commonly used herbicide, has been shown to induce effects on the mouse immune system. The aim of this study was to assess the immunotoxicity of propanil in occupationally exposed agricultural workers and to characterize its molecular mechanism of action. Seven agricultural workers intermittently exposed to propanil and 7 healthy matched controls entered the study. Data were collected through physical examination, and laboratory investigations addressed at the main serum, cellular, and functional immune parameters. The levels of exposure were assessed by determining the urine concentration of the major propanil metabolite, 3,4-dichloroaniline. The investigation of serum, cellular, and functional immune parameters suggested that propanil exposure results in a modest immunomodulatory effect, characterized by an increase in the plasma level of IgG1 and in LPS-induced IL-6 release and, by a reduction in PHA-induced IL-10 and IFN release, associated with a reduced IFN/IL-4 ratio. As observed, following in vivo exposure, in vitro treatment of human peripheral blood leukocytes with propanil resulted in a dose-dependent reduction in PHA-induced IFN-gamma and IL-10 production, while LPS-induced TNF-α production was not affected indicating a direct effect of propanil on selected immune parameters. We demonstrated that propanil interfering with PHA-induced intracellular calcium increase modulated IL-10 and IFN-gamma transcription and translation, which indicates that propanil acts on early events triggered by PHA. Overall, our results suggest that human exposure to propanil has slight immunomodulatory effects, and point out that the inhibition of the PHA-induced intracellular calcium rise is an important target of propanil. These findings improve our understanding of the mechanism underlying propanil-induced immunotoxicity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-210
Number of pages9
JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 15 2007


  • Cytokine
  • Immunotoxicity
  • In vitro
  • In vivo
  • Pesticides

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Toxicology


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