The sugarcane herbicide ametryn induces oxidative stress and developmental abnormalities in zebrafish embryos

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2018 May;25(14):13416-13425. doi: 10.1007/s11356-017-9614-0. Epub 2017 Jul 12.


Ametryn (AMT) is one of the most widely used herbicides in tropical sugarcane crops, the main culture of São Paulo State, Brazil. It is known as a diffuse pollutant, being found in surface water and sediment of water bodies adjacent to the crop fields. In the present study, the toxicity of AMT to zebrafish (Danio rerio) embryos was evaluated using developmental and biochemical endpoints. At the biochemical level, lactate dehydrogenase responded at the lowest concentration tested (4 μg L-1) indicating a high demand of energy required to cope with the stress condition. Antioxidant enzyme levels were changed at intermediate/high concentrations while oxidative damage (lipid peroxidation) was observed at the last concentration tested (10 mg L-1). This suggests that, like for other herbicides from the triazine group, oxidative stress is a major pathway of toxicity for AMT. Several developmental effects such as oedemas and tail deformities were also observed. The 96 h-EC50 values calculated for different developmental parameters were between 17 and 29 mg L-1. AMT also affected hatching (96 h-EC50 = 22.5 mg L-1) and positioning in the water column (96 h-EC50 = 13.2 mg L-1). In a previous work of the group, lethal toxicity of AMT showed to be much higher to adults than to embryos. However, in the present work, sublethal endpoints assessed suggest that important effects are observed at lower concentrations, improving the sensitivity of the embryo test. Moreover, in this work, sublethal effects were observed for concentrations in the same range as the ones found in the environment, and thus, given that this chemical is widely used in tropical fields, a refined evaluation of risk should be performed based on the monitoring of sublethal and long-term parameters and considering mixture scenarios.

Keywords: Agricultural runoff; Agrochemicals; Embryotoxicity; Fish embryos; Oxidative stress.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / chemistry
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Brazil
  • Herbicides / chemistry
  • Herbicides / metabolism*
  • Lipid Peroxidation / physiology*
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Saccharum / metabolism*
  • Triazines / chemistry
  • Triazines / metabolism*
  • Zebrafish / metabolism*


  • Antioxidants
  • Herbicides
  • Triazines
  • ametryne