Morphometric signatures of exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals in zebrafish eleutheroembryos

Aquat Toxicol. 2019 Sep;214:105232. doi: 10.1016/j.aquatox.2019.105232. Epub 2019 Jun 24.


Understanding the mode of action of the different pollutants in human and wildlife health is a key step in environmental risk assessment. The aim of this study was to determine signatures that could link morphological phenotypes to the toxicity mechanisms of four Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs): bisphenol A (BPA), perfluorooctanesulfonate potassium salt (PFOS), tributyltin chloride (TBT), and 17-ß-estradiol (E2). Zebrafish (Danio rerio) eleutheroembryos were exposed from 2 to 5 dpf to a wide range of BPA, PFOS, TBT and E2 concentrations. At the end of the exposures several morphometric features were assessed. Common and non-specific effects on larvae pigmentation or swim bladder area were observed after exposures to all compounds. BPA specifically induced yolk sac malabsorption syndrome and altered craniofacial parameters, whereas PFOS had specific effects on the notochord formation presenting higher rates of scoliosis and kyphosis. The main effect of E2 was an increase in the body length of the exposed eleutheroembryos. In the case of TBT, main alterations on the morphological traits were related to developmental delays. When integrating all morphometrical parameters, BPA showed the highest rates of malformations in terms of equilethality, followed by PFOS and, distantly, by TBT and E2. In the case of BPA and PFOS, we were able to relate our results with effects on the transcriptome and metabolome, previously reported. We propose that methodized morphometric analyses in zebrafish embryo model can be used as an inexpensive and easy screening tool to predict modes of action of a wide-range number of contaminants.

Keywords: Dose-response; EDCs; Eleutheroembryo; Endocrine disruption; Morphology; Zebrafish.

MeSH terms

  • Alkanesulfonic Acids / toxicity
  • Animals
  • Benzhydryl Compounds / toxicity
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / anatomy & histology*
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / drug effects*
  • Embryonic Development / drug effects
  • Endocrine Disruptors / toxicity*
  • Environmental Pollutants / pharmacology
  • Estradiol / toxicity
  • Fluorocarbons / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Larva / drug effects
  • Least-Squares Analysis
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Phenols / toxicity
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Survival Analysis
  • Toxicity Tests
  • Trialkyltin Compounds / toxicity
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity
  • Zebrafish / anatomy & histology*
  • Zebrafish / embryology*


  • Alkanesulfonic Acids
  • Benzhydryl Compounds
  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Fluorocarbons
  • Phenols
  • Trialkyltin Compounds
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Estradiol
  • tributyltin
  • perfluorooctane sulfonic acid
  • bisphenol A