Gene expression changes in female zebrafish (Danio rerio) brain in response to acute exposure to methylmercury


  • Presented at the 30th Annual Meeting, SETAC North America, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, November 19-23, 2009.


Methylmercury (MeHg) is a potent neurotoxicant and endocrine disruptor that accumulates in aquatic systems. Previous studies have shown suppression of hormone levels in both male and female fish, suggesting effects on gonadotropin regulation in the brain. The gene expression profile in adult female zebrafish whole brain induced by acute (96 h) MeHg exposure was investigated. Fish were exposed by injection to 0 or 0.5 µg MeHg/g. Gene expression changes in the brain were examined using a 22,000-feature zebrafish microarray. At a significance level of p < 0.01, 79 genes were up-regulated and 76 genes were down-regulated in response to MeHg exposure. Individual genes exhibiting altered expression in response to MeHg exposure implicate effects on glutathione metabolism in the mechanism of MeHg neurotoxicity. Gene ontology (GO) terms significantly enriched among altered genes included protein folding, cell redox homeostasis, and steroid biosynthetic process. The most affected biological functions were related to nervous system development and function, as well as lipid metabolism and molecular transport. These results support the involvement of oxidative stress and effects on protein structure in the mechanism of action of MeHg in the female brain. Future studies will compare the gene expression profile induced in response to MeHg with that induced by other toxicants and will investigate responsive genes as potential biomarkers of MeHg exposure. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2011;30:301–308. © 2010 SETAC