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Your Environment. Your Health.

Insecticides Affect Circadian Rhythm, Increase Type 2 Diabetes Risk

Rajendram Rajnarayanan, Ph.D.
University at Buffalo

Chemicals commonly found in insecticides have been shown to disrupt insulin release and increase type 2 diabetes risk by interfering with the body’s circadian rhythm, according to a new study by NIEHS grantees. The study showed that certain carbamates, which are active ingredients in some insecticides, can bind to receptors normally reserved for melatonin, a hormone that plays a pivotal role in controlling circadian rhythm.

Melatonin regulates a wide array of processes, including blood sugar regulation. Abnormal melatonin activation can occur when other chemicals bind to the receptors that govern melatonin activity. Disrupting melatonin can inhibit other processes in the body, such as the release of insulin at night.

Using a computational approach, the researchers screened for chemicals that mimic the structure of melatonin and found that carbaryl and carbofuran carbamates could bind to specific melatonin receptors. Disruptions to these receptors, which normally activate melatonin to keep circadian rhythm in balance, were previously linked to elevated risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The study points to a mechanism through which exposure to carbamate insecticides could affect insulin release and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, among other potential effects on human health.

Citation: Popovska-Gorevski M, Dubocovich ML, Rajnarayanan RV. 2017. Carbamate insecticides target human melatonin receptors. Chem Res Toxicol 30(2):574–582.