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Neurotoxicology. 2014 Jul;43:57-64. doi: 10.1016/j.neuro.2014.03.008. Epub 2014 Mar 31.

Zebrafish as a model for investigating developmental lead (Pb) neurotoxicity as a risk factor in adult neurodegenerative disease: a mini-review.

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School of Health Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA.
School of Health Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA. Electronic address:


Lead (Pb) exposure has long been recognized to cause neurological alterations in both adults and children. While most of the studies in adults are related to higher dose exposure, epidemiological studies indicate cognitive decline and neurobehavioral alterations in children associated with lower dose environmental Pb exposure (a blood Pb level of 10μg/dL and below). Recent animal studies also now report that an early-life Pb exposure results in pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease later in life. While previous studies evaluating higher Pb exposures in adult animal models and higher occupational Pb exposures in humans have suggested a link between higher dose Pb exposure during adulthood and neurodegenerative disease, these newer studies now indicate a link between an early-life Pb exposure and adult neurodegenerative disease. These studies are supporting the "fetal/developmental origin of adult disease" hypothesis and present a new challenge in our understanding of Pb neurotoxicity. There is a need to expand research in this area and additional model systems are needed. The zebrafish presents as a complementary vertebrate model system with numerous strengths including high genetic homology. Several zebrafish genes orthologous to human genes associated with neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases are identified and this model is starting to be applied in neurodegenerative disease research. Moreover, the zebrafish is being used in developmental Pb neurotoxicity studies to define genetic mechanisms of toxicity and associated neurobehavioral alterations. While these studies are in their infancy, the genetic and functional conservation of genes associated with neurodegenerative diseases and application in developmental Pb neurotoxicity studies supports the potential for this in vivo model to further investigate the link between developmental Pb exposure and adult neurodegenerative disease pathogenesis. In this review, the major factors influencing the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases, Pb neurotoxicity, the developmental origin of adult disease paradigm, and the zebrafish as a model system to investigate the developmental origin of low-dose Pb-induced neurodegenerative diseases is discussed.


Alzheimer's disease; Lead; Neurodegenerative disease; Parkinson's disease; Zebrafish

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