Pharmacological modulation of serotonin levels in zebrafish larvae: Lessons for identifying environmental neurotoxicants targeting the serotonergic system

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Abstract

This study examines the effects of acute pharmacological modulation of the serotonergic system over zebrafish larvae’s cognitive, basic, and defense locomotor behaviors, using a medium to high throughput screening assay. Furthermore, the relationship between behavior, enzyme activity related to neurotransmitter metabolism, neurotransmitter levels, and gene expression was also determined. Modulation of larvae serotonergic system was accomplished by 24 h exposure to single and opposite pharmacodynamics co-exposure to three model psychopharmaceuticals with antagonistic and agonistic serotonin signaling properties: 2.5 mM 4-Chloro-DL-phenylalanine (PCPA) and 5 µM deprenyl and 0.5 µM fluoxetine, respectively. Similar behavioral outcome was observed for deprenyl and fluoxetine, which was reflected as hypolocomotion, decrease in larvae defensive responses, and cognitive impairment. Contrarily, PCPA induced hyperlocomotion and increase in larvae escape response. Deprenyl exposure effects were more pronounced at a lower level of organization than fluoxetine, with complete inhibition of monoamine oxidase (MAO) activity, dramatic increase of 5-HT and dopamine (DA) levels, and downregulation of serotonin synthesis and transporter genes. PCPA showed mainly effects over serotonin and dopamine’s main degradation metabolites. Finally, co-exposure between agonistic and antagonist serotonin signaling drugs reviled full recovery of zebrafish impaired locomotor and defense responses, 5-HT synthesis gene expression, and partial recovery of 5-HT levels. The findings of this study suggest that zebrafish larvae can be highly sensitive and a useful vertebrate model for short-term exposure to serotonin signaling changes.

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Faria, M., Prats, E., Bellot, M., Gomez-Canela, C., & Raldúa, D. (2021). Pharmacological modulation of serotonin levels in zebrafish larvae: Lessons for identifying environmental neurotoxicants targeting the serotonergic system. Toxics, 9(6). https://doi.org/10.3390/toxics9060118

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