Acute exposure to environmentally relevant lead levels induces oxidative stress and neurobehavioral alterations in larval zebrafish (Danio rerio)

Andrew Kataba, Tarryn L. Botha, Shouta M.M. Nakayama, Yared B. Yohannes, Yoshinori Ikenaka, Victor Wepener, Mayumi Ishizuka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


The ubiquitous contamination of environmental lead (Pb) remains a worldwide threat. Improper Pb mine waste disposal from an abandoned lead-zinc mine has recently unearthed widespread Pb poisoning in children in Kabwe Zambia. Although the adverse effects of Pb on human health have begun to receive attention, the ecotoxicological effects on aquatic vertebrates still need further investigation. In addition, there is paucity in the knowledge on the behavioural and molecular subcellular responses in larval zebrafish exposed to Pb within the range of environmental relevant concentration (average 3 μg/L with maximum of 94 μg/L) on aquatic organisms such as zebrafish. The adverse effects of environmentally relevant levels of Pb on larval zebrafish was evaluated by measuring swimming behaviour under alternating dark and light conditions. Larval zebrafish acutely exposed to environmentally relevant Pb exhibited neuro-behavioural alteration including enhanced hyperactivity under light conditions evidenced by increased distanced covered and speed compared to the control. The alteration of entire behavioral profiles was further associated with the disturbed expression patterns of mRNA level of key genes associated with antioxidant (HO-1, Ucp-2 and CoxI), proapoptotic gene (TP53), and antiapoptotic gene (Bcl-2). To our knowledge, this is the first report on the effects of environmentally relevant Pb levels from Kabwe, Zambia and their adverse neurobehavioural effects and subcellular molecular oxidative responses in larval zebrafish acutely exposed within a 30 min period. The current results would be beneficial in our understanding of the effects of low Pb levels acutely discharged into an aquatic environment and the life of aquatic organisms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105607
JournalAquatic Toxicology
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Behavioral toxicology
  • Hormesis
  • Hyperactivity
  • Lead
  • Zebrafish larvae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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