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Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2013 Jan 15;266(2):177-86. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2012.11.010. Epub 2012 Nov 19.

Role of Nrf2 antioxidant defense in mitigating cadmium-induced oxidative stress in the olfactory system of zebrafish.

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Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98105, USA.


Exposure to trace metals can disrupt olfactory function in fish leading to a loss of behaviors critical to survival. Cadmium (Cd) is an olfactory toxicant that elicits cellular oxidative stress as a mechanism of toxicity while also inducing protective cellular antioxidant genes via activation of the nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2 (Nrf2) pathway. However, the molecular mechanisms of Cd-induced olfactory injury have not been characterized. In the present study, we investigated the role of the Nrf2-mediated antioxidant defense pathway in protecting against Cd-induced olfactory injury in zebrafish. A dose-dependent induction of Nrf2-regulated antioxidant genes associated with cellular responses to oxidative stress was observed in the olfactory system of adult zebrafish following 24h Cd exposure. Zebrafish larvae exposed to Cd for 3h showed increased glutathione S-transferase pi (gst pi), glutamate-cysteine ligase catalytic subunit (gclc), heme oxygenase 1 (hmox1) and peroxiredoxin 1 (prdx1) mRNA levels indicative of Nrf2 activation, and which were blocked by morpholino-mediated Nrf2 knockdown. The inhibition of antioxidant gene induction in Cd-exposed Nrf2 morphants was associated with disruption of olfactory driven behaviors, increased cell death and loss of olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs). Nrf2 morphants also exhibited a downregulation of OSN-specific genes after Cd exposure. Pre-incubation of embryos with sulforaphane (SFN) partially protected against Cd-induced olfactory tissue damage. Collectively, our results indicate that oxidative stress is an important mechanism of Cd-mediated injury in the zebrafish olfactory system. Moreover, the Nrf2 pathway plays a protective role against cellular oxidative damage and is important in maintaining zebrafish olfactory function.

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