Adult exposure to insecticides causes persistent behavioral and neurochemical alterations in zebrafish.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Farmers are often chronically exposed to insecticides, which may present health risks including increased risk of neurobehavioral impairment during adulthood and across aging. Experimental animal studies complement epidemiological studies to help determine the cause-and-effect relationship between chronic adult insecticide exposure and behavioral dysfunction. With the zebrafish model, we examined short and long-term neurobehavioral effects of exposure to either an organochlorine insecticide, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) or an organophosphate insecticide chlorpyrifos (CPF). Adult fish were exposed continuously for either two or 5 weeks (10-30 nM DDT, 0.3-3 μM CPF), with short- and long-term effects assessed at 1-week post-exposure and at 14 months of age respectively. The behavioral test battery included tests of locomotor activity, tap startle, social behavior, anxiety, predator avoidance and learning. Long-term effects on neurochemical indices of cholinergic function were also assessed. Two weeks of DDT exposure had only slight effects on locomotor activity, while a longer five-week exposure led to hypoactivity and increased anxiety-like diving responses and predator avoidance at 1-week post-exposure. When tested at 14 months of age, these fish showed hypoactivity and increased startle responses. Cholinergic function was not found to be significantly altered by DDT. The two-week CPF exposure led to reductions in anxiety-like diving and increases in shoaling responses at the 1-week time point, but these effects did not persist through 14 months of age. Nevertheless, there were persistent decrements in cholinergic presynaptic activity. A five-week CPF exposure led to long-term effects including locomotor hyperactivity and impaired predator avoidance at 14 months of age, although no effects were apparent at the 1-week time point. These studies documented neurobehavioral effects of adult exposure to chronic doses of either organochlorine or organophosphate pesticides that can be characterized in zebrafish. Zebrafish provide a low-cost model that has a variety of advantages for mechanistic studies and may be used to expand our understanding of neurobehavioral toxicity in adulthood, including the potential for such toxicity to influence behavior and development during aging.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Hawkey, AB; Glazer, L; Dean, C; Wells, CN; Odamah, K-A; Slotkin, TA; Seidler, FJ; Levin, ED

Published Date

  • March 2020

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 78 /

Start / End Page

  • 106853 -

PubMed ID

  • 31911208

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC7061078

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1872-9738

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States