Embryonic exposures to cadmium and PAHs cause long-term and interacting neurobehavioral effects in zebrafish.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Repository Usage Stats


Citation Stats


Developmental exposure to either polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) or heavy metals has been shown to cause persisting and overlapping neurobehavioral effects in animal models. However, interactions between these compounds have not been well characterized, despite their co-occurrence in a variety of environmental media. In two companion studies, we examined the effects of developmental exposure to cadmium (Cd) with or without co-exposure to prototypic PAHs benzo[a]pyrene (BaP, Exp. 1) or fluoranthene (FA, Exp. 2) using a developing zebrafish model. Zebrafish embryos were exposed to Cd (0-0.3 μM), BaP (0-3 μM), FA (0-1.0 μM), or binary Cd-PAH mixtures from 5 to 122 h post fertilization (hpf). In Exp. 1, Cd and BaP produced independent effects on an array of outcomes and interacting effects on specific outcomes. Notably, Cd-induced deficits in dark-induced locomotor stimulation were attenuated by BaP co-exposure in the larval motility test and BaP-induced hyperactivity was attenuated by Cd co-exposure in the adolescent novel tank test. Likewise, in Exp. 2, Cd and FA produced both independent and interacting effects. FA-induced increases on adult post-tap activity in the tap startle test were attenuated by co-exposure with Cd. On the predator avoidance test, FA- and 0.3 μM Cd-induced hyperactivity effects were attenuated by their co-exposure. Taken together, these data indicate that while the effects of Cd and these representative PAHs on zebrafish behavior were largely independent of one another, binary mixtures can produce sub-additive effects for some neurobehavioral outcomes and at certain ages. This research emphasizes the need for detailed risk assessments of mixtures containing contaminants of differing classes, and for clarity on the mechanisms which allow cross-class toxicant interactions to occur.





Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Stickler, Alexandra, Andrew B Hawkey, Anas Gondal, Sarabesh Natarajan, Mikayla Mead and Edward D Levin (2024). Embryonic exposures to cadmium and PAHs cause long-term and interacting neurobehavioral effects in zebrafish. Neurotoxicology and teratology, 102. p. 107339. 10.1016/j.ntt.2024.107339 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/30652.

This is constructed from limited available data and may be imprecise. To cite this article, please review & use the official citation provided by the journal.



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.

Unless otherwise indicated, scholarly articles published by Duke faculty members are made available here with a CC-BY-NC (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial) license, as enabled by the Duke Open Access Policy. If you wish to use the materials in ways not already permitted under CC-BY-NC, please consult the copyright owner. Other materials are made available here through the author’s grant of a non-exclusive license to make their work openly accessible.