The effects of the fungicide benomyl and its breakdown products, carbendazim and butyl isocyanate, were examined on canine tracheal epithelial tissue in primary culture. Changes in ciliary frequencies were monitored with an optical spectrum analysis system. Serial dilutions of the test compounds were prepared in 100% corn oil and applied to the cell cultures for intervals up to 6 hours and frequencies measured at intervals of 15 minutes to 1 hour. Benomyl and butyl isocyanate caused concentration-dependent decreases in ciliary beat frequency. Benomyl at 300 micrograms/ml (3 mM) caused ciliostasis within 75 minutes of exposure. Butyl isocyanate at a molar concentration three times lower than benomyl (1 mM) caused a similar response, although within 30 minutes. The IBC50 for benomyl was 0.75 mM, while for butyl isocyanate it was 0.52 mM. Carbendazim caused a moderate decrease in frequency over a 6 hour exposure period. Benomyl caused moderate to severe swelling of the mitochondria of ciliated epithelial cells with other cell organelles appearing normal. Butyl isocyanate did not cause any noticeable effect on cell ultrastructure and the apparently low rate of penetration of carbendazim into cells made it impossible to obtain an effect which justified ultrastructural analysis. It appears, at least for benomyl and butyl isocyanate, that while the physiological effect of these two compounds (inhibition of ciliary beat) is the same, the sites of action in the cell may be different.
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