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Popp, Tanja; Lueling, Robin; Boekhoff, Ingrid; Seeger, Thomas; Branoner, Francisco; Gudermann, Thomas; Thiermann, Horst; Worek, Franz and Steinritz, Dirk (2018): Immediate responses of the cockroach Blaptica dubia after the exposure to sulfur mustard. In: Archives of Toxicology, Vol. 92, No. 1: pp. 337-346

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The chemical agent sulfur mustard (SM) causes erythema, skin blisters, ulcerations, and delayed wound healing. It is accepted that the underlying molecular toxicology is based on DNA alkylation. With an expected delay, DNA damage causes impairment of protein biosynthesis and disturbance of cell division. However, using the cockroach model Blaptica dubia, the presented results show that alkylating compounds provoke immediate behavior responses along with fast changes in the electrical field potential (EFP) of neurons, suggesting that lesions of DNA are probably not the only effect of alkylating compounds. Blaptica dubia was challenged with SM or 2-chloroethyl-ethyl sulfide (CEES). Acute toxicity was objectified by a disability score. Physiological behavior responses (antennae pullback reflex, escape attempts, and grooming) were monitored after exposure. To estimate the impact of alkylating agents on neuronal activity, EFP recordings of the antennae and the thoracic ganglion were performed. After contact to neat SM, a pullback reflex of the antennae was the first observation. Subsequently, a striking escape behavior occured which was characterized by persistent movement of the legs. In addition, an instantaneous processing of the electrical firing pattern from the antennae to the descending ganglia was detectable. Remarkably, comparing the toxicity of the applied alkylating agents, effects induced by CEES were much more pronounced compared to SM. In summary, our findings document immediate effects of B. dubia after exposure to alkylating substances. These fast responses cannot be interpreted as a consequence of DNA alkylation. Therefore, the dogma that DNA alkylation is the exclusive cause for SM toxicity has to be questioned.

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