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Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2020 Mar 8;97:109774. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2019.109774. Epub 2019 Oct 23.

Developmental stage and genotype dependent behavioral effects of embryonic alcohol exposure in zebrafish larvae.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, University of Toronto Mississauga, Canada.
2
Department of Biology, University of Toronto Mississauga, Canada.
3
Department of Psychology, University of Toronto Mississauga, Canada; Department of Cell & System Biology, University of Toronto, Canada. Electronic address: robert.gerlai@utoronto.ca.

Abstract

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) represent a worldwide problem. The severity and types of symptoms of FASD vary, which may be due to the genotype of the fetus and the developmental stage at which the fetus is exposed to alcohol. The most prevalent forms of FASD present less severe symptoms, including behavioral and cognitive abnormalities, and arise from exposure to low amounts of alcohol consumed infrequently. Treating or diagnosing FASD patients has been difficult because we do not understand the mechanisms underlying FASD. Animal models, including the zebrafish, have been suggested to answer this question. Here, we present a proof of concept analysis studying the behavioral effects of embryonic alcohol exposure in one-week old juvenile zebrafish. We exposed zebrafish embryos at one of five developmental stages (8, 16, 24, 32, or 40 hour post-fertilization) to 0% (control) or 1% (vol/vol) ethanol for 2 h, and tested the behavior of these fish at their age of 7-9 days post-fertilization. We employed two genetically distinct zebrafish populations, a quasi-inbred AB derivative strain, and a genetically variable WT population. We report significant developmental time and genotype dependent effects of alcohol on certain measures of motor function and/or anxiety-like responses. For example, we found embryonic alcohol exposed AB fish to swim faster, vary their speed more, stop moving more often and turn less compared to control fish, alcohol induced changes that were absent or less robust in WT fish. We conclude that our results open new avenues to the identification of genetic mechanisms that mediate or influence alcohol induced developmental alteration of brain function and behavior, which, on the long run, may allow us to identify diagnostic biomarkers and treatment options for human FASD.

KEYWORDS:

Alcohol; Anxiety; Ethanol; FASD; Genotype × development interaction; Motor function; Zebrafish

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