Toxic metals that interact with thiol groups and alteration in insect behavior

Cláudia S. Oliveira, Pablo A. Nogara, Luíza S. Lima, Maria EA Galiciolli, Júlia V. Souza, Michael Aschner, João BT Rocha

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Toxic metals, such as mercury (Hg), lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd), and copper (Cu), are widespread in the biosphere, and human activities have contributed to their continuous release into the ecosystems. Metal-induced toxicity has been extensively studied in mammals; however, the effects of these metals on insects’ behavior have been explored to far lesser degree. As the main mechanism of toxicity, the cationic metals, explored in this review, have high affinity for thiol-containing molecules, disrupting the function of several proteins and low-molecular-weight thiol-containing molecules. Existing literature has corroborated that Hg, Pb, Cd, and Cu can disrupt locomotor and mating behaviors, but their effects on insects’ memory and learning have yet to be fully characterized. Though field studies on metal-induced toxicity in insects are limited, results from Drosophila melanogaster as an experimental model suggest that insects living in contaminated environments can have behavioral foraging and reproductive deficits, which may cause population decline. In this review, we address the interaction between metals and endogenous thiol groups, with emphasis on alterations in insect behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100923
JournalCurrent Opinion in Insect Science
StatePublished - Aug 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science


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