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Comparison of the acute effects of benzo[a]pyrene on cardiorespiratory function and fitness in adult zebrafish (Danio rerio) following i.p. injection or aqueous exposure



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Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are ubiquitous environmental contaminants. There are numerous studies reporting developmental cardiac toxicity in multiple fish species due to PAH exposure. However, there are relatively few instances where the effects of acute PAH exposure in adult fish have been characterized. Furthermore, the majority of experiments comparing PAH toxicity with exposure route in adult fish focus on CYP1A gene expression or enzyme activity, while there is a lack of information about the possible pathophysiological effects. Therefore, the overall objective of this thesis was to characterize the sublethal effects of benzo[a]pyrene (BaP), a prototypical PAH, on adult zebrafish (Danio rerio) cardiorespiratory function and fitness following acute exposure by two different routes. In the first experiment, adult zebrafish were intraperitoneally (i.p.) injected twice (one injection/24 hr) with increasing concentrations of BaP (0.1, 10, and 1000 μg/kg) and compared to corresponding dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) controls. In a second set of experiments, adult zebrafish were aqueously exposed to BaP (static, renewal at 24 hr; 16.2 and 162 μg/L) and compared to DMSO controls. Following 48 hr exposure, one group of fish (n=10/treatment group) were subjected to swimming performance tests to assess critical swimming speed (Ucrit), oxygen consumption rate (MO2), cost of transport (COT), standard metabolic rate (SMR), active metabolic rate (AMR), and factorial aerobic scope (F-AS). Another group of fish (n=12/treatment group) were subjected to echocardiography following 48 hr BaP exposure to evaluate cardiac function. Following echocardiography analysis, samples were collected for parent compound (BaP) body burden and CYP1A mRNA induction analysis. 48 hr BaP injection resulted in significant sublethal effects on adult zebrafish cardiorespiratory function. Oxygen consumption (MO2) was increased at three swimming speeds in injected BaP groups compared to control. In contrast, aqueously BaP-exposed fish showed increased MO2 only at the single lowest swim speed. COT was also similarly increased for both exposure routes. SMR was elevated with both exposure routes, while AMR remained unchanged. This resulted in a significant decrease in F-AS for all treatment groups compared to corresponding controls with both exposure routes. Cardiac function was significantly affected by both routes of BaP exposure. Ventricular heart rate was significantly decreased in BaP-exposed fish, both injected and aqueously-exposed. However, stroke volume was decreased only in fish aqueously exposed to BaP, which resulted in significantly reduced cardiac output with that exposure route. In contrast, the ratio of atrial to ventricular heart rate (AV ratio) was increased only in fish i.p. injected with BaP, indicating the possibility of cardiac arrhythmias occurring. Analysis of BaP body burdens in fish tissue allowed for identification of an overlapping dose group between exposure routes, through which comparisons of cardiotoxicity were then made. This comparison revealed slight differences in cardiotoxicity between exposure routes. BaP-injected fish suffered from more severe bradycardia than aqueously exposed fish. Furthermore, cytochrome P4501A (CYP1A) mRNA levels in liver and heart tissue showed more significant increases in injected fish, while skeletal muscle CYP1A was increased only following aqueous exposure. In conclusion, acute BaP exposure caused metabolic alterations and impaired cardiorespiratory function in adult zebrafish regardless of exposure route. Interestingly, the primary mechanism behind these effects appeared to differ slightly with exposure route. These results suggest that acute BaP exposure may have negative effects on adult fish survivability in the environment. Overall, this work provides valuable insight into the pathophysiogical consequences of acute PAH exposure in adult stage fish.



Benzo[a]pyrene, acute toxicity, zebrafish, cardiac toxicity



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Toxicology Centre




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