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2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid herbicide effects on zebrafish larvae: development, neurotransmission and behavior as sensitive endpoints

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Assessment of pesticides toxicity using zebrafish early life stages is relevant for aquatic systems safety. This study aimed to evaluate the short-term effects of 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) on zebrafish (Danio rerio) embryos from 3 h post fertilization to 96 hpf. A set of 2,4-D concentrations ranging from 0.32 to 80 mg/L were tested and median lethal concentration (LC50) at 96-h was calculated as 2.86 mg/L. A sub-teratogenic concentrations range from 0.02 to 0.8 mg/L was then used to assess effects at ontogenic, biochemical, and behavioral levels. The main developmental defects were tail deformities and pericardial edema at concentrations equal or above 0.32 mg/L. Cholinesterase activity (at 96 hpf) and larvae swimming behavior (at 120 hpf) were affected even at the lowest tested dose (0.02 mg/L). The behavior analysis was a sensitive endpoint, with a decrease in the swimming distance of exposed larvae during light period. The effect of 2,4-D in ChE was translated by an inhibition of the enzyme activity in all treated groups. These findings demonstrate that 2,4-D can alter the cholinergic system by affecting ChE activity which may be involved in the locomotion reduction of exposed larvae and emphasize the potential of neurotransmission and behavioral endpoints as early warning signs of herbicides contamination in aquatic ecosystems.

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This work was supported by funds from the “Ministère de l’Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche Scientifique; UR13A6R08, Biochimie et Toxicologie Environnementale” and the Department of Biology, University of Aveiro Portugal.

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Correspondence to Mohamed Banni.

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Gaaied, S., Oliveira, M., Domingues, I. et al. 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid herbicide effects on zebrafish larvae: development, neurotransmission and behavior as sensitive endpoints. Environ Sci Pollut Res 27, 3686–3696 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-019-04488-5

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  • Early life stages
  • Danio rerio
  • 2,4-Dontogenic development
  • Cholinesterase
  • Behavior
  • Thigmotaxis