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Selected herbicides screened for toxicity and analysed as inhibitors of both cholinesterases.

  • Pehar, Vesna1
  • Kolić, Dora2
  • Zandona, Antonio2
  • Šinko, Goran2
  • Katalinić, Maja2
  • Stepanić, Višnja3
  • Kovarik, Zrinka4
  • 1 Croatian Defense Academy "Dr. Franjo Tuđman", Ilica 256b, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia. , (Croatia)
  • 2 Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health, Ksaverska cesta 2, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia. , (Croatia)
  • 3 Ruđer Bošković Institute, Bijenička 54, HR-10002, Zagreb, Croatia. Electronic address: [email protected]. , (Croatia)
  • 4 Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health, Ksaverska cesta 2, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia. Electronic address: [email protected]. , (Croatia)
Published Article
Chemico-biological interactions
Publication Date
Jul 01, 2023
DOI: 10.1016/j.cbi.2023.110506
PMID: 37141932


Sets of 346 herbicides in use and 163 no longer in use were collected from open access online sources and compared in silico with cholinesterases inhibitors (ChI) and drugs in terms of physicochemical profile and estimated toxic effects on human health. The screening revealed at least one potential adverse consequence for each herbicide class assigned according to their mode of action on weeds. The classes with most toxic warnings were K1, K3/N, F1 and E. The selection of 11 commercial herbicides for in vitro biological tests on human acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and butyrylcholinesterase (BChE), the enzymes involved in neurotoxicity and detoxification of various xenobiotics, respectively, was based mainly on the structural similarity with inhibitors of cholinesterases. Organophosphate anilofos and oxyacetanilide flufenacet were the most potent inhibitors of AChE (25 μM) and BChE (6.4 μM), respectively. Glyphosate, oxadiazon, tembotrione and terbuthylazine were poor inhibitors with an estimated IC50 above 100 μM, while for glyphosate the IC50 was above 1 mM. Generally, all of the selected herbicides inhibited with a slight preference towards BChE. Cytotoxicity assays showed that anilofos, bensulide, butamifos, piperophos and oxadiazon were cytotoxic for hepatocytes (HepG2) and neuroblastoma cell line (SH-SY5Y). Time-independent cytotoxicity accompanied with induction of reactive oxygen species indicated rapid cell death in few hours. Our results based on in silico and in vitro analyses give insight into the potential toxic outcome of herbicides in use and can be applied in the design of new molecules with a less impact on humans and the environment. Copyright © 2023 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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