Document Type


Date of Degree


Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Jonathan A. Doorn


Pesticides have been used to control various types of pests, including plants and insects, for thousands of years, however the impact of exposure to these toxic chemicals, with respect to environmental and health consequences, is not fully understood. Two pesticides of interest, molinate and dieldrin, have been shown to cause neurotoxicity in humans, but their mechanisms of toxicity are still unknown. In order to better understand how exposure to these chemicals can cause toxicity, the structure-activity relationship (SAR) was defined to determine how specific changes to the structure of each pesticide affects the toxicity profiles of each of these compounds.

Results of this study demonstrated that oxidation of molinate to molinate sulfoxide, and then further to molinate sulfone, a more potent inhibitor of aldehyde dehydrogenase. The sulfone metabolite is capable of covalently modifying the active-site cysteine residue of aldehyde dehydrogenase, accounting for the observed enzyme inhibition. These results indicate that the compound responsible for the toxicity from molinate exposure is not the parent compound, but rather one of the sulfoxidation metabolites.

When the SAR of dieldrin was investigated with respect to a Parkinson's disease model, it was determined that the compounds that were previously found to be the least potent insecticides were the most toxic with respect to dopaminergic cells. Each of the compounds tested was observed to disrupt dopamine metabolism in accordance with their toxicity profiles in dopaminergic cells. In combination, these results implicate important structural features responsible for the toxicity with respect to Parkinson's disease. This information is critical for the development of new pesticides, and will be important to increase the selective toxicity for insects while minimizing adverse/off-target effects. This can lead to the development of safer, more effective pesticides that will be essential for future environmental and human health.


dieldrin, molinate, neurotoxicity, Parkinson's disease, pesticides


xvii, 142 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 123-142).


Copyright 2011 Erin MG Allen