Methylene blue toxicity in zebrafish cell line is dependent on light exposure

Cell Biol Int. 2016 Aug;40(8):895-905. doi: 10.1002/cbin.10629. Epub 2016 Jun 6.


Methylene blue (MB) has been widely applied in the clinical area and is currently being used in aquaculture as biocide. Some recent studies have emphasized the importance of understanding the action mechanism and the MB cellular targets. In this sense, zebrafish is considered a relevant model to study the intrinsic pathway of apoptosis as well as the cellular responses involving DNA damage and repair. So, the aim of the present study was to compare MB action mechanisms in a zebrafish cell line, both in the absence (MB alone; dark toxicity) and in the presence of photosynthetically active radiation (MB+PAR; phototoxicity). There was a significant increase of the levels of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species 3 h after MB treatment, whereas this increase was only observed 12 h after treatment with MB+PAR. All treatments with MB resulted in an increase in DNA damage after 3 and 6 h. However, cell death by apoptosis was observed from 6 h after treatment with MB+PAR and 12 h after treatment with MB alone. The expression of genes related to apoptosis was altered after MB and MB+PAR treatment. Therefore, this zebrafish cell line is sensitive to the photodynamic action of MB; MB is able to generate DNA damage and induce apoptosis in this cell line both alone and in the presence of PAR. However, the pathways leading to apoptosis in this model appear to be dependent on the type of MB exposure (in the presence or absence of PAR).

Keywords: apoptosis; gene expression; genotoxicity; hepatocyte; methylene blue; photodynamic action.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / radiation effects
  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • Cell Death / radiation effects
  • Cell Line
  • DNA Damage
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Hepatocytes / drug effects*
  • Hepatocytes / radiation effects*
  • Light
  • Methylene Blue / toxicity*
  • Zebrafish


  • Methylene Blue