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Endocrinology. 2019 Sep 1;160(9):2137-2142. doi: 10.1210/en.2019-00281.

Ancestral Fluoxetine Exposure Sensitizes Zebrafish to Venlafaxine-Induced Reductions in Cortisol and Spawning.

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Department of Biology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.


Owing to the prevalence of depression during childbearing, mothers can be prescribed multiple antidepressants; however, little is known about the risk and consequences to the offspring or subsequent generations. Fluoxetine (FLX) is usually the first-line of pharmacological treatment for affective disorders in pregnant women, with venlafaxine (VEN) used as secondary treatment. Given that FLX and VEN readily cross the placenta, a fetus from a treated pregnant woman is potentially at risk of the endocrine disruptive effects of these chemicals. Pharmaceutical agents, including FLX and VEN, reach aquatic ecosystems through sewage release; thus, fish could also be inadvertently affected. We report the results from a 6-day FLX exposure during early zebrafish development to an environmentally relevant level (0.54 µg/L in water) and a concentration detected in the cord blood of FLX-treated pregnant women (54 µg/L in water). The FLX exposure reduced the stress response (arithmetic difference between the stress-induced and unstressed whole-body cortisol levels) in the adult female and male zebrafish, an effect that persisted for four generations. To model the possibility of a second antidepressant exposure, filial generation 4 was exposed to VEN (5 µg/L). We found that FLX exposure sensitized these descendants to VEN. VEN treatment further suppressed cortisol production in females and decreased spawning rates in adult pairs. This is an important demonstration that in an animal model, a brief ancestral exposure of great-great-grandparents to the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor FLX will shape the physiological responses of future generations to the serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor VEN.


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