The PBDE metabolite 6-OH-BDE 47 affects melanin pigmentation and THRβ MRNA expression in the eye of zebrafish embryos.


Polybrominated diphenyl ethers and their hydroxyl-metabolites (OH-BDEs) are commonly detected contaminants in human serum in the US population. They are also considered to be endocrine disruptors, and are specifically known to affect thyroid hormone regulation. In this study, we investigated and compared the effects of a PBDE and its OH-BDE metabolite on developmental pathways regulated by thyroid hormones using zebrafish as a model. Exposure to 6-OHBDE 47 (10-100 nM), but not BDE 47 (1-50 μM), led to decreased melanin pigmentation and increased apoptosis in the retina of zebrafish embryos in a concentration-dependent manner in short-term exposures (4 - 30 hours). Six-OH-BDE 47 exposure also significantly decreased thyroid hormone receptor β (THRβ) mRNA expression, which was confirmed using both RT-PCR and in situ hybridization (whole mount and paraffin- section). Interestingly, exposure to the native thyroid hormone, triiodothyronine (T3) also led to similar responses: decreased THRβ mRNA expression, decreased melanin pigmentation and increased apoptosis, suggesting that 6-OH-BDE 47 may be acting as a T3 mimic. To further investigate short-term effects that may be regulated by THRβ, experiments using a morpholino gene knock down and THRβ mRNA over expression were conducted. Knock down of THRβ led to decreases in melanin pigmentation and increases in apoptotic cells in the eye of zebrafish embryos, similar to exposure to T3 and 6-OH-BDE 47, but THRβ mRNA overexpression rescued these effects. Histological analysis of eyes at 22 hpf from each group revealed that exposure to T3 or to 6-OH-BDE 47 was associated with a decrease of melanin and diminished proliferation of cells in layers of retina near the choroid. This study suggests that 6-OH-BDE 47 disrupts the activity of THRβ in early life stages of zebrafish, and warrants further studies on effects in developing humans.