Regulation of zebrafish (Danio rerio) locomotor behavior and circadian rhythm network by environmental steroid hormones


Environmental exposure of fish to steroid hormones through wastewater and agricultural runoff may pose a health risk. Thus far, ecotoxicological studies have largely been focused on the disruption of the sex hormone system, but additional effects have been poorly investigated. Here we report on the effects of a series of different natural and synthetic steroid hormones on the locomotor behavior and the transcriptional levels of core clock genes in zebrafish eleuthero-embryos (Danio rerio). Of the 20 steroids analyzed, progestins and corticosteroids, including progesterone and cortisol, significantly decreased the locomotor activities of eleuthero-embryos at concentrations as low as 16 ng/L, while estrogens such as 17β-estradiol led to an increase. Consistently, progestins and corticosteroids displayed similar transcriptional effects on core clock genes, which were remarkably different from those of estrogens. Of these genes, per1a and nr1d2a displayed the most pronounced alterations. They were induced upon exposure to various progestins and corticosteroids and could be recovered using the progesterone receptor/glucocorticoid receptor antagonist mifepristone; this, however, was not the case for estrogens and the estrogen receptor antagonist 4-hydroxy-tamoxifen. Our results suggest that steroid hormones can modulate the circadian molecular network in zebrafish and provide novel insights into their mode of actions and potential environmental risks.