Glazer, L., & Brennan, C. H. (2021). Developmental Exposure to Low Concentrations of Methylmercury Causes Increase in Anxiety-Related Behaviour and Locomotor Impairments in Zebrafish. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 22, 10961.
Methylmercury (MeHg) is a ubiquitous pollutant shown to cause developmental neurotoxicity, even at low levels. However, there is still a large gap in our understanding of the mechanisms linking early-life exposure to life-long behavioural impairments. Our aim was to characterise the short- and long-term effects of developmental exposure to low doses of MeHg on anxiety-related behaviours in zebrafish, and to test the involvement of neurological pathways related to stress-response. Zebrafish embryos were exposed to sub-acute doses of MeHg (0, 5, 10, 15, 30 nM) throughout embryo-development, and tested for anxiety-related behaviours and locomotor activity at larval (light/dark locomotor activity) and adult (novel tank and tap assays) life-stages. Exposure to all doses of MeHg caused increased anxiety-related responses; heightened response to the transition from light to dark in larvae, and a stronger dive response in adults. In addition, impairment in locomotor activity was observed in the higher doses in both larvae and adults. Finally, the expressions of several neural stress-response genes from the HPI-axis and dopaminergic system were found to be disrupted in both life-stages. Our results provide important insights into dose-dependent differences in exposure outcomes, the development of delayed effects over the life-time of exposed individuals and the potential mechanisms underlying these effects.
zebrafish; methylmercury; developmental neurotoxicity; behaviour; anxiety; locomotor activity; HPI-axis; dopaminergic system