Zearalenone is a mycotoxin produced by several species of Fusarium fungi, which contaminates crop and cereal products worldwide. It is widely distributed and can be transported from agricultural fields to the aquatic environment via soil run-off. Zearalenone exposure can cause serious health problems to humans and animals, including estrogenic, immunotoxic, and xenogenic effects. Though its hepatotoxicity has been reported by few studies, the underlying mechanisms are yet to be investigated. This study aimed to comprehensively evaluate the hepatotoxic effects of zearalenone and its molecular mechanism in the zebrafish model system. First, we found zearalenone exposure can cause liver injury, as evidenced by reduced liver size, decreased liver-specific fluorescence, increased aspartate aminotransferase (AST) activity, delayed yolk sac absorption and lipid accumulation. Then, RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) was performed using dissected zebrafish fry liver, which found genes involved in oxidation and reduction were significantly enriched. Quantitative real-time PCR further confirmed the dysregulated expression of several antioxidant enzymes. Additionally, lipid peroxidation was proved by increased malondialdehyde (MDA) production and gene expression at the mRNA level. In contrast to the previous study, apoptosis was likely decreased in response to zearalenone exposure. Last, glucuronidation and amino acid metabolism were also disrupted by zearalenone. Our results revealed the complex mechanism of zearalenone-induced hepatotoxicity, which is a valuable contribution to a more comprehensive understanding of the toxicity of zearalenone.
Keywords: Hepatotoxicity; Transcriptomics; Zearalenone; Zebrafish.
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