Behavioral profile alterations in zebrafish larvae exposed to environmentally relevant concentrations of eight priority pharmaceuticals

Sci Total Environ. 2019 May 10;664:89-98. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.01.300. Epub 2019 Jan 24.


Although the effects of pharmaceuticals on aquatic organisms have been widely investigated during the last decades, toxic effects, especially delayed toxicity, during the developmental stage at environmental relevant concentrations were rarely known. In this study, a sensitive assay based on behavioral alterations was used for studying the delayed toxicity during the developmental stage on zebrafish embryos. Eight pharmaceuticals that were frequently detected with concentrations ranging from ng/l to μg/l were screened for this study. Behavioral alterations of zebrafish at 118 hpf (hours post fertilization) after exposing to eight single pharmaceuticals with concentrations in the ranges of environmental detected and their mixtures during embryonic development (2-50 h post fertilization, hpf) were observed. Multiple endpoints, including mortality, hatching rate, swimming speed and angular velocity were evaluated. Results showed that behavioral profile alterations in zebrafish larvae are promising for predicting delayed sublethal effects of chemicals. Delayed hatch was observed at 72 hpf following embryonic exposure to triclosan (1 μg/l) and carbamazepine (100 μg/l) up to 50 hpf. The zebrafish larval locomotor behavior following embryonic exposure to 0.1 μg/l triclosan and 1 μg/l caffeine in the early stages of development (2-50 hpf) was altered. Furthermore, the effects of the mixture of 8 pharmaceuticals each with the highest environmental concentration on larval behavior were observed during embryonic development. Generally, this study showed that the effects of pharmaceuticals singly or their mixtures in surface waters cannot be ignored.

Keywords: Locomotion alterations; Mixture toxicity; Triclosan; Zebrafish behavior; Zebrafish development.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / drug effects*
  • Embryonic Development / drug effects*
  • Larva
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*
  • Zebrafish / embryology*
  • Zebrafish / physiology


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical