Triclosan affects motor function in zebrafish larva by inhibiting ache and syn2a genes

Chemosphere. 2021 Mar;266:128930. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2020.128930. Epub 2020 Nov 12.


The widespread use of triclosan in personal care products as an antimicrobial agent is leading to its alarming tissue-bioaccumulation including human brain. However, knowledge of its potential effects on the vertebrate nervous system is still limited. Here, we hypothesized that sublethal triclosan concentrations are potent enough to alter motor neuron structure and function in zebrafish embryos exposed for prolonged duration. In this study, zebrafish embryos were used as vertebrate-animal model. Prolonged exposure (up to 4 days) of 0.6 mg/L (LC50, 96 h) and 0.3 mg/L (<LC50, Sublethal) triclosan produced aberrations in motor neuron innervations in skeletal muscles and reduced touch-evoked escape response in zebrafish larvae. This suggests motor dysfunction in treated embryos. To further explore the mechanisms of triclosan induced neurotoxicity, we determined the enzyme activity of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and the expression of acetylcholinesterase (ache), myelin basic protein (mbp) and synapsin IIa (syn2a) genes which play an important role in the neural development and synaptic transmission. The ache and syn2a genes were down-regulated in triclosan treated larvae without any significant changes in mbp gene expression. At functional level, we observed a decrease in the AChE activity. Furthermore, docking results showed that triclosan can form a stable interaction with binding pocket of AChE and perhaps it can compete with natural acetylcholine for direct binding to AChE thereby inhibiting it and affecting cholinergic transmission. Therefore, triclosan can be regarded as a neurotoxic agent even at sublethal concentrations. Overall, the growing toxicological evidence against triclosan including ours suggest caution in its widespread use.

Keywords: Acetylcholinesterase; Locomotor behavior; Motor neurons; Sublethal; Triclosan; Zebrafish larvae.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholinesterase / genetics
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Larva / genetics
  • Triclosan* / toxicity
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical* / toxicity
  • Zebrafish / genetics


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Triclosan
  • Acetylcholinesterase