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A rapid zebrafish embryo behavioral biosensor that is capable of detecting environmental β-blockers

Gauthier, Patrick T., Vijayan, Mathilakath M.
Environmental pollution 2019 v.250 pp. 493-502
Danio rerio, aquatic organisms, beta adrenergic receptors, beta-adrenergic agonists, beta-adrenergic antagonists, bioassays, biomarkers, biosensors, embryo (animal), environmental impact, isoproterenols, monitoring, municipal wastewater, pollution, rapid methods, risk, screening, surface water, therapeutics, toxicity
β-Blockers (BB) are one of the most commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals used for treating cardiovascular and acute anxiety-related disorders. This class of drugs inhibit β-adrenoceptor signalling and given their growing, widespread use, BB are routinely detected in surface waters at nM concentrations. This is concerning as trace levels of BB impart developmental and reproductive dysfunction in non-target aquatic organisms, with potential for ecological risks. To date, environmental pharmaceutical risks to non-target animals are not part of the monitoring framework due to the lack of bioassays for assessing their biological effects. Behavioral endpoints have the advantage of a systems-level integration of multiple sensory signals and motor responses for toxicity screening; however, they are not currently used for risk assessment of environmental contaminants. The zebrafish (Danio rerio) embryo photomotor response (zfPMR) has been used in high-throughput behavioral screenings for neuroactive drug effects at high, therapeutic concentrations. Our objective here was to examine if we could utilize the zfPMR for screening environmental levels of BB. Embryos were placed into 96-well plates, exposed to chemicals and/or municipal wastewater effluent (MWWE), and their zfPMRs were measured with video-analysis. To specifically target BB, embryos were co-treated with isoproterenol, a β-adrenergic agonist that stimulates the zfPMR, and the inhibition of isoproterenol-induced response was used as a biomarker of BB exposure. Our results reveal that the inhibition of isoproterenol-stimulated zfPMRs can be used as a biosensor capable of detecting BB in the parts-per-billion to parts-per-trillion in water samples, including diluted MWWE. The method developed detects BB in spite of the presence of other neuroactive compounds in water samples. This systems level approach of rapid screening for BB effects provides the most promising evidence to date that behavioral neuromodulation can be potentially applied for environmental effects monitoring of pharmaceuticals.