Developmental exposure to a POPs mixture or PFOS increased body weight and reduced swimming ability but had no effect on reproduction or behavior in zebrafish adults

Aquat Toxicol. 2021 Aug:237:105882. doi: 10.1016/j.aquatox.2021.105882. Epub 2021 Jun 4.


Complex mixtures of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are regularly detected in the environment and animal tissues. Often these chemicals are associated with latent effects following early-life exposures, following the developmental origin of health and disease paradigm. We investigated the long-term effects of a human relevant mixture of 29 POPs on adult zebrafish following a developmental exposure, in addition to a single PFOS exposure for comparison, as it was the compound with the highest concentration within the mixture. Zebrafish embryos were exposed from 6 to 96 h post fertilization to x10 and x70 the level of POP mixture or PFOS (0.55 and 3.83 μM) found in human blood before being transferred to clean water. We measured growth, swimming performance, and reproductive output at different life stages. In addition, we assessed anxiety behavior of the adults and their offspring, as well as performing a transcriptomic analysis on the adult zebrafish brain, as the POP mixture and PFOS concentrations used are known to affect larval behavior. Exposure to POP mixture and PFOS reduced swimming performance and increased length and weight, compared to controls. No effect of developmental exposure was observed on reproductive output or anxiety behavior. Additionally, RNA-seq did not reveal pathways related to anxiety although pathways related to synapse biology were affected at the x10 PFOS level. Furthermore, pathway analysis of the brain transcriptome of adults exposed as larvae to the low concentration of PFOS revealed enrichment in pathways such as calcium, MAPK, and GABA signaling, all of which are important for learning and memory. Based on our results we can conclude that some effects on the endpoints measured were apparent, but if these effects lead to adversities at population levels remains elusive.

Keywords: Behavior; Growth; Pathway analysis; RNA-seq; Reproduction; U(crit).

MeSH terms

  • Alkanesulfonic Acids* / toxicity
  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Environmental Pollutants*
  • Fluorocarbons* / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Reproduction
  • Swimming
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical* / toxicity
  • Zebrafish


  • Alkanesulfonic Acids
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Fluorocarbons
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical