Fish embryos are widely used as an alternative model to study toxicity in vertebrates. Due to their complexity, embryos are believed to more resemble an adult organism than in vitro cellular models. However, concerns have been raised with respect to the embryo's metabolic capacity. We recently identified allyl alcohol, an industrial chemical, to be several orders of magnitude less toxic to zebrafish embryo than to adult zebrafish (embryo LC50?=?478 mg/L vs. fish LC50?=?0.28 mg/L). Reports on mammals have indicated that allyl alcohol requires activation by alcohol dehydrogenases (Adh) to form the highly reactive and toxic metabolite acrolein, which shows similar toxicity in zebrafish embryos and adults. To identify if a limited metabolic capacity of embryos indeed can explain the low allyl alcohol sensitivity of zebrafish embryos, we compared the mRNA expression levels of Adh isoenzymes (adh5, adh8a, adh8b and adhfe1) during embryo development to that in adult fish. The greatest difference between embryo and adult fish was found for adh8a and adh8b expression. Therefore, we hypothesized that these genes might be required for allyl alcohol activation. Microinjection of adh8a, but not adh8b mRNA led to a significant increase of allyl alcohol toxicity in embryos similar to levels reported for adults (LC50?=?0.42 mg/L in adh8a mRNA-injected embryos). Furthermore, GC/MS analysis of adh8a-injected embryos indicated a significant decline of internal allyl alcohol concentrations from 0.23-58 ng/embryo to levels below the limit of detection (< 4.6 µg/L). Injection of neither adh8b nor gfp mRNA had an impact on internal allyl alcohol levels supporting that the increased allyl alcohol toxicity was mediated by an increase in its metabolization. These results underline the necessity to critically consider metabolic activation in the zebrafish embryo. As demonstrated here, mRNA injection is one useful approach to study the role of candidate enzymes involved in metabolization.
Oil pollution from various sources, including exploration, production and transportation, is a growing global concern. The highest toxicity of hydrocarbon pollutants is associated with the water-soluble phase compounds, including naphthenic acids, a known component found in all hydrocarbon deposits. Recently, naphthenic acids (NAs) have shown estrogenic and anti-androgenic effects in vitro. For this reason we investigated the potential effects of two commercial mixtures of naphthenic acids on fish in vivo, using the three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) as a model species. Anti-androgenic and estrogenic properties of tested compounds were evaluated using the androgenized female stickleback screen (AFSS) and a variant of the 21-d fish screen (TG230) respectively. One-dimensional gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) showed that the complex commercial NAs mixtures were dominated by acyclic carboxylic acids. In one experiment (freshwater) we found a clear effect of NA exposure on spiggin levels; this was contrary to our hypothesis since NAs enhanced the androgenic potency of DHT (when co-administered) without inducing spiggin when tested in the absence of DHT. Exposure to NAs did not have a statistically significant effect on vitellogenin (Vtg) production in male stickleback, although the Vtg responses were increasing with increasing exposure concentrations. This study shows that in contrast to previous in vitro data, NAs did not exhibit either estrogenic or anti-androgenic properties in vivo, at the concentrations tested. On the contrary, at least in freshwater, NAs appear to have an overall androgenic effect that is not mediated via the androgen receptor involved in spiggin synthesis. Possible reasons for this discrepancy between in vitro and in vivo results as well as between our studies are discussed.
Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors are widely used as pesticides and drugs. Their primary effect is the overstimulation of cholinergic receptors which results in an improper muscular function. During vertebrate embryonic development nerve activity and intracellular downstream events are critical for the regulation of muscle fiber formation. Whether AChE inhibitors and related neurotoxic compounds also provoke specific changes in gene transcription patterns during vertebrate development that allow them to establish a mechanistic link useful for identification of developmental toxicity pathways has, however, yet not been investigated. Therefore we examined the transcriptomic response of a known AChE inhibitor, the organophosphate azinphos-methyl (APM), in zebrafish embryos and compared the response with two non-AChE inhibiting unspecific control compounds, 1,4-dimethoxybenzene (DMB) and 2,4-dinitrophenol (DNP). A highly specific cluster of APM induced gene transcripts was identified and a subset of strongly regulated genes was analyzed in more detail. The small heat shock protein hspb11 was found to be the most sensitive induced gene in response to AChE inhibitors. Comparison of expression in wildtype, ache and sop(fixe) mutant embryos revealed that hspb11 expression was dependent on the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) activity. Furthermore, modulators of intracellular calcium levels within the whole embryo led to a transcriptional up-regulation of hspb11 which suggests that elevated intracellular calcium levels may regulate the expression of this gene. During early zebrafish development, hspb11 was specifically expressed in muscle pioneer cells and Hspb11 morpholino-knockdown resulted in effects on slow muscle myosin organization. Our findings imply that a comparative toxicogenomic approach and functional analysis can lead to the identification of molecular mechanisms and specific marker genes for potential neurotoxic compounds.
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