The use of tocofersolan as a rescue agent in larval zebrafish exposed to benzo[a]pyrene in early development.

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Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are widespread environmental pollutants created by incomplete combustion. Benzo(a)pyrene (BaP), the prototypic PAH, is known to exert toxicity through oxidative stress which is thought to occur through inhibition of antioxidant scavenging systems. The use of agents that reduce oxidative stress may be a valuable route for ameliorating the adverse effects of PAHs on neural development and behavior. This study was conducted to determine if tocofersolan (a synthetic water-soluble analog of vitamin E) supplementation can prevent or reduce neurobehavioral deficits in zebrafish embryos exposed to BaP during early development. Newly hatched zebrafish were assessed on locomotor activity and light responsivity. Zebrafish embryos were exposed to vehicle (DMSO), tocofersolan (0.3 μM-3 μM), and/or BaP (5 μM) from 5-120 hours post-fertilization. This concentration range was below the threshold for producing overt dysmorphogenesis or decreased survival. One day after the end of exposure the larval fish were tested for locomotor activity under alternating light and dark 10 min periods, BaP (5 μM) was found to cause locomotor hypoactivity in larval fish. Co-exposure of tocofersolan (1 μM) restored control-like locomotor function. Based on the findings of this study, this model can be expanded to assess the outcome of vitamin E supplementation on other potential environmental neurotoxicants, and lead to determination if this rescue persists into adulthood.





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Holloway, Zade, Andrew Hawkey, Helina Asrat, Nidhi Boinapally and Edward D Levin (2021). The use of tocofersolan as a rescue agent in larval zebrafish exposed to benzo[a]pyrene in early development. Neurotoxicology, 86. pp. 78–84. 10.1016/j.neuro.2021.07.003 Retrieved from

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Edward Daniel Levin

Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Dr. Levin is Chief of the Neurobehavioral Research Lab in the Psychiatry Department of Duke University Medical Center. His primary academic appointment is as Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. He also has secondary appointments in the Department Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke. His primary research effort is to understand basic neural interactions underlying cognitive function and addiction and to apply this knowledge to better understand cognitive dysfunction and addiction disorders and to develop novel therapeutic treatments.

The three main research components of his laboratory are focused on the themes of the basic neurobiology of cognition and addiction, neurobehavioral toxicology and the development of novel therapeutic treatments for cognitive dysfunction and substance abuse. Currently, our principal research focus concerns nicotine. We have documented the basic effects of nicotine on learning memory and attention as well as nicotine self-administration. We are continuing with more mechanistic studies in rat models using selective lesions, local infusions and neurotransmitter interaction studies. We have found that nicotine improves memory performance not only in normal rats, but also in rats with lesions of hippocampal and basal forebrain connections. We are concentrating on alpha7 and alpha4beta2 nicotinic receptor subtypes in the hippocampus, amygdala , thalamus and frontal cortex and how they interact with dopamine D1 and D2 and glutamate NMDA systems with regard to memory and addiction. I am also conducting studies on human cognitive behavior. We have current studies to assess nicotine effects on attention, memory and mental processing speed in schizophrenia, Alzheimer's Disease and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. In the area of neurobehavioral toxicology, I have continuing projects to characterize the adverse effects of prenatal and adolescent nicotine exposure. Our primary project in neurobehavioral toxicology focuses on the cognitive deficits caused by the marine toxins. The basic and applied aims of our research complement each other nicely. The findings concerning neural mechanisms underlying cognitive function help direct the behavioral toxicology and therapeutic development studies, while the applied studies provide important functional information concerning the importance of the basic mechanisms under investigation.

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