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Toxicol Sci. 2017 Aug 1;158(2):465-474. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfx107.

Quantification of Estradiol Uptake in Zebrafish Embryos and Larvae.

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Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama 35294.


Zebrafish are a powerful model system to assess the molecular and cellular effects of exposure to toxic chemicals during embryonic development. To study the effects of environmental endocrine disruptors, embryos and larvae are commonly exposed to supraphysiologic concentrations of these compounds in the water, but their bioavailability in zebrafish is largely unknown. One hypothesis is that supraphysiologic concentrations of estrogens in the water are required to achieve physiologic levels in vivo; however, this has not been directly tested. To test this hypothesis, we developed an assay using radiolabeled estradiol ([3H]E2) to measure uptake from water at multiple concentrations and exposure durations in developing zebrafish from 0 to 5 days postfertilization (dpf). We found that [3H]E2 uptake increased with increasing concentration, duration, and developmental stage. Percent uptake from the total volume of treatment solution increased with increasing exposure duration and developmental stage, but remained constant with increasing concentration. We also found that the chorion, an acellular envelope surrounding embryos through 3 dpf, did not substantially affect [3H]E2 uptake. Finally, we found that at 1 dpf, E2 was preferentially taken up by the yolk at multiple exposure durations, while at 2 dpf E2 was preferentially taken up into the embryonic body. Our results support the hypothesis that exposing zebrafish embryos and larvae to supraphysiologic concentrations of estrogens is required to achieve physiologically relevant doses in vivo. The isotopic assay reported here will provide a foundation for determining the uptake of other compounds for teratogenicity, toxicology and drug discovery studies.


embryo; endocrine disruptors; environmental exposure; estrogens

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