Comparison of the toxicokinetics of the convulsants picrotoxinin and tetramethylenedisulfotetramine (TETS) in mice

Brandon Pressly, Natalia Vasylieva, Bogdan Barnych, Vikrant Singh, Latika Singh, Donald A. Bruun, Sung Hee Hwang, Yi Je Chen, James C. Fettinger, Stephanie Johnnides, Pamela J. Lein, Jun Yang, Bruce D Hammock, Heike Wulff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Acute intoxication with picrotoxin or the rodenticide tetramethylenedisulfotetramine (TETS) can cause seizures that rapidly progress to status epilepticus and death. Both compounds inhibit γ-aminobutyric acid type-A (GABAA) receptors with similar potency. However, TETS is approximately 100 × more lethal than picrotoxin. Here, we directly compared the toxicokinetics of the two compounds following intraperitoneal administration in mice. Using LC/MS analysis we found that picrotoxinin, the active component of picrotoxin, hydrolyses quickly into picrotoxic acid, has a short in vivo half-life, and is moderately brain penetrant (brain/plasma ratio 0.3). TETS, in contrast, is not metabolized by liver microsomes and persists in the body following intoxication. Using both GC/MS and a TETS-selective immunoassay we found that mice administered TETS at the LD50 of 0.2 mg/kg in the presence of rescue medications exhibited serum levels that remained constant around 1.6 μM for 48 h before falling slowly over the next 10 days. TETS showed a similar persistence in tissues. Whole-cell patch-clamp demonstrated that brain and serum extracts prepared from mice at 2 and 14 days after TETS administration significantly blocked heterologously expressed α2β3γ2 GABAA-receptors confirming that TETS remains pharmacodynamically active in vivo. This observed persistence may contribute to the long-lasting and recurrent seizures observed following human exposures. We suggest that countermeasures to neutralize TETS or accelerate its elimination should be explored for this highly dangerous threat agent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalArchives of Toxicology
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020


  • Convulsant
  • GABA receptor
  • Picrotoxinin
  • TETS
  • Threat agent

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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