Blood α-synuclein in agricultural pesticide handlers in central Washington State

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Abstract

Epidemiologic studies suggest that occupational exposure to pesticides might increase Parkinson disease risk. Some pesticides, such as the organophosphorus insecticide chlorpyrifos, appear to increase the expression of α-synuclein, a protein critically involved in Parkinson disease. Therefore, we assessed total blood cell α-synuclein in 90 specimens from 63 agricultural pesticide handlers, mainly Hispanic men from central Washington State, who participated in the state's cholinesterase monitoring program in 2007–2010. Additionally, in age-adjusted linear regression models for repeated measures, we assessed whether α-synuclein levels were associated with butyrylcholinesterase–chlorpyrifos adducts or cholinesterase inhibition measured in peripheral blood, or with self-reported pesticide exposure or paraoxonase (PON1) genotype. There was no evidence by any of those indicators that exposure to chlorpyrifos was associated with greater blood α-synuclein. We observed somewhat greater α-synuclein with the PON1-108T (lower paraoxonase enzyme) allele, and with ≥10 h of exposure to cholinesterase inhibiting insecticides in the preceding 30 days, but neither of these associations followed a clear dose–response pattern. These results suggest that selected genetic and environmental factors may affect α-synuclein blood levels. However, longitudinal studies with larger numbers of pesticide handlers will be required to confirm and elucidate the possible associations observed in this exploratory cross-sectional study.

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