Environmental metals are known to cause harmful effects to fish of which many molecular mechanisms still require elucidation. Particularly concentration dependence of gene expression effects is unclear. Focusing on this matter, zebrafish embryo toxicity tests were used in combination with transcriptomics. Embryos were exposed to three concentrations of copper (CuSO4), cadmium (CdCl2) and cobalt (CoSO4) from just after fertilization until the end of the 48hpf pre- and 96hpf post-hatch stage. The RNA was then analyzed on Agilent's Zebrafish (V3, 4×44K) arrays. Enrichment for GO terms of biological processes illustrated for cadmium that most affected GO terms were represented in all three concentrations, while for cobalt and copper most GO terms were represented in the lowest test concentration only. This suggested a different response to the non-essential cadmium than cobalt and copper. In cobalt and copper treated embryos, many developmental and cellular processes as well as the Wnt and Notch signaling pathways, were found significantly enriched. Also, different exposure concentrations affected varied functional networks. In contrast, the largest clusters of enriched GO terms for all three concentrations of cadmium included responses to cadmium ion, metal ion, xenobiotic stimulus, stress and chemicals. However, concentration dependence of mRNA levels was evident for several genes in all metal exposures. Some of these genes may be indicative of the mechanisms of action of the individual metals in zebrafish embryos. Real-time quantitative RT-PCR (qRT-PCR) verified the microarray data for mmp9, mt2, cldnb and nkx2.2a.
Keywords: Cadmium; Cobalt; Concentration-dependence; Copper; Metals; Toxicity; Transcriptomics; Zebrafish embryo.
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