Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are ubiquitous environmental contaminants. The most toxic PCBs are the non-ortho-substituted ("dioxin-like") congeners that act through the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) pathway. In humans, perinatal exposure to dioxin-like PCBs is associated with neurodevelopmental toxicity in children. Yet, the full potential for later-life neurobehavioral effects that result from early-life low level exposure to dioxin-like PCBs is not well understood. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of developmental exposure to low levels of dioxin-like PCBs on early- and later-life behavioral phenotypes using zebrafish as a model system. We exposed zebrafish embryos to either vehicle (DMSO) or low concentrations of PCB126 (0.3, 0.6, 1.2nM) for 20h (4-24h post fertilization), and then reared them to adulthood in clean water. Locomotor activity was tested at two larval stages (7 and 14 days post fertilization). Adult fish were tested for anxiety-related behavior using the novel tank and shoaling assays. Adult behavioral assays were repeated several times on the same group of fish and effects on intra- and inter-trial habituation were determined. While there was no effect of PCB126 on larval locomotor activity in response to changes in light conditions, developmental exposure to PCB126 resulted in impaired short- and long-term habituation to a novel environment in adult zebrafish. Cyp1a induction was measured as an indicator for AHR activation. Despite high induction at early stages, cyp1a expression was not induced in the brains of developmentally exposed adult fish that showed altered behavior, suggesting that AHR was not activated at this stage. Our results demonstrate the effectiveness of the zebrafish model in detecting subtle and delayed behavioral effects resulting from developmental exposure to an environmental contaminant.
Keywords: Anxiety; Developmental neurotoxicity; Dioxin; Habituation; PCB126; Zebrafish.
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