Perfluorononanoic Acid Induces Neurotoxicity via Synaptogenesis Signaling in Zebrafish

Environ Sci Technol. 2023 Mar 7;57(9):3783-3793. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.2c06739. Epub 2023 Feb 16.


Perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), commonly used as an alternative polyfluorinated compound (PFC) of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), has been widely detected in the aquatic environment. Previous ecotoxicological and epidemiological results suggested that some neurobehavioral effects were associated with PFC exposure; however, the ecological impacts and underlying neurotoxicity mechanisms remain unclear, particularly in aquatic organisms during sensitive, early developmental stages. In this study, zebrafish embryos were exposed to environmentally relevant concentrations of PFNA for 120 h, and the neurological effects of PFNA were comprehensively assessed using transcriptional, biochemical, morphological, and behavioral assays. RNA sequencing and advanced bioinformatics analyses predicted and characterized the key biological processes and pathways affected by PFNA exposure, which included the synaptogenesis signaling pathway, neurotransmitter synapse, and CREB signaling in neurons. Neurotransmitter levels (acetylcholine, glutamate, 5-hydroxytryptamine, γ-aminobutyric acid, dopamine, and noradrenaline) were significantly decreased in zebrafish larvae, and the Tg(gad67:GFP) transgenic line revealed a decreased number of GABAergic neurons in PFNA-treated larvae. Moreover, the swimming distance, rotation frequency, and activity degree were also significantly affected by PFNA, linking molecular-level changes to behavioral consequences.

Keywords: Danio rerio; behavior; early life stage; embryo; neurotransmitter; perfluorononanoic acid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids / pharmacology
  • Larva
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical* / toxicity
  • Zebrafish*


  • perfluoro-n-nonanoic acid
  • Fatty Acids
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical