Acute and chronic effects of environmental realistic concentrations of clofibric acid in Danio rerio: Behaviour, oxidative stress, biotransformation and lipid peroxidation endpoints


• Clofibric acid exposure in zebrafish affected behaviour through hypoactivity.
• Clofibric acid properties caused an increase in all biochemical biomarkers.
• The metabolism of this antihyperlipidemic seems to have modulated behavioral and biochemical results.
• No evidences were found in terms of histology endpoints being altered by clofibric acid.


Due to their widespread use, pharmaceuticals can be metabolized, excreted and ultimately discarded in the environment, thereby affecting aquatic organisms. Lipid-regulating drugs are one of the most prescribed medications around the world, controlling human cholesterol levels, in more than 20 million patients. Despite this growing use of lipid-regulating drugs, particularly those whose active metabolite is clofibric acid, the potential toxicological effects of these pharmaceuticals in the environment is not fully characterized. This work intended to characterize the toxicity of an acute (120 hours post-fertilization) and chronic (60 days post-fertilization) exposures to clofibric acid in concentrations of 10.35, 20.7, 41.4, 82.8 and 165.6 µg L-1 in zebrafish (Danio rerio). The concentrations which were implemented in both exposures were based on predicted environmental concentrations for Portuguese surface waters. The acute effects were analysed focusing on behavioural endpoints (small and large distance travelled, swimming time and total distance travelled), biomarkers of oxidative stress (activity of the enzymes superoxide dismutase, Cu/Zn- and Mn SOD; catalase, CAT; glutathione peroxidase, Se- and total GPx), biotransformation (activity of glutathione S-transferases, GSTs) and lipid peroxidation (thiobarbituric acid reactive substances, TBARS). Chronically exposed individuals were also histologically analysed for sex determination and gonadal developmental stages. In terms of acute exposure, significant alterations were reported, in terms of behavioural alterations (hypoactivity), followed by an overall increase in all tested biomarkers. Chronically exposed organisms did not show alterations in terms of sex ratio and maturation stages, suggesting that clofibric acid did not act as an endocrine disruptor. Moreover, the metabolism of clofibric acid resulted in increased levels of both forms of SOD activity, especially for animals exposed to higher levels of this drug. An increase of CAT activity was observed in fish exposed to low levels, and a decrease in those exposed to higher amounts of clofibric acid. Both GPx forms had their activities increased. The enzyme of biotransformation GSTs were increased at low levels of clofibric acid but inhibited at higher amounts of this substance. Lipid peroxidation levels were also changed, with an induction of this parameter with increasing amounts of clofibric acid. Changes also occurred in behavioural endpoints and patterns for control organisms and for those exposed to clofibric acid were significantly distinct, for all types (light and darkness) of exposure, and for the two analysed endpoints (small and large distance). Results from this assay allow inferring that clofibric acid can have an ecologically relevant impact in living organisms exposed to this substance, with putative impact on the metabolism of individuals, affecting their behaviour and ultimately their survival.


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