Sex-specific alterations of lipid metabolism in zebrafish exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls

Chemosphere. 2019 Apr;221:768-777. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2019.01.094. Epub 2019 Jan 17.


Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are persistent organic pollutants (POPs) mixtures exerting environmental health risk. In mammals, PCBs have been shown to disrupt metabolic state, especially lipid metabolism, and energy balance, but their effects on lipid metabolism in fish are largely unknown. The zebrafish were selected as model and both male and female adult zebrafish were exposed to different concentrations of PCBs at gradient concentrations of 0.2, 2.0 and 20.0 μg/L for 6 weeks. PCB exposure did not affect survival, but a significant inhibition of growth was observed in the males after exposure to 20.0 μg/L. The lower concentrations of 0.2 and 2.0 μg/L increased hepatic lipid accumulation to a greater extent in male fish, but the higher concentration of 20.0 μg/L did not cause significant fat accumulation in either male or female fish. In males, the expression of genes related to lipogenesis and lipid catabolism was upregulated in a concentration-dependent manner in the liver and visceral mass without liver and gonad; the effects of exposure on lipid metabolism-related genes in female fish were less pronounced. PCB exposure did not induce significant oxidative stress, but did upregulate the expression of stress- and apoptosis-related genes, mostly in male fish. The low concentrations of PCBs (0.2 μg/L and 2.0 μg/L) exerted sex-specific effects on zebrafish lipid metabolism, and male fish were more sensitive to the exposure. This study provides new mechanistic insights into the complex interactions between PCBs, lipid metabolism, and sex in zebrafish, and may contribute to a future systematic assessment of the effects of PCBs on aquatic ecosystems.

Keywords: Lipid metabolism; Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); Sex-specific effects; Zebrafish.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Gonads / metabolism
  • Lipid Metabolism / drug effects*
  • Lipogenesis / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / toxicity*
  • Sex Factors
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / metabolism
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity
  • Zebrafish / metabolism*


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls