Transgenerational endocrine disruption and neurotoxicity in zebrafish larvae after parental exposure to binary mixtures of decabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-209) and lead


Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and heavy metals are two key groups of electric and electronic equipment contaminants. Despite their co-occurrence in aquatic environments, their combined effects remain largely unknown, particularly under a chronic exposure regime. In the present study, adult zebrafish (Danio rerio) were exposed to environmentally relevant concentrations of BDE-209 and lead (Pb), or their binary mixtures, for 3 months. After chronic parental exposure, increased transfer of BDE-209 and Pb to the offspring eggs was activated in the coexposure groups, with BDE-197 being the predominant PBDE congener, indicating the dynamic metabolism of BDE-209 in parental zebrafish. In the presence of Pb, culturing the eggs in clean water until 5 days post-fertilization (dpf) further accelerated the debromination of BDE-209 towards BDE-197 in the offspring, caused by the preferential removal of bromine atoms at meta positions. BDE-209 and Pb combinations induced reproductive and thyroid endocrine disruption in adults, which resulted in an imbalanced deposition of hormones in the eggs. However, compared with single chemical exposure, the larval offspring at 5 dpf from the coexposure groups had reversed the adverse influences from maternal origin. In addition, the interaction between BDE-209 and Pb led to transgenerational developmental neurotoxicity in the larval offspring, where inhibited neuronal growth and neurotransmitter signaling, disorganized muscular assembly, and impaired visual function contributed to the observed neurobehavioral deficits. Overall, depending on specific biological events, the complex interaction between BDE-209 and Pb under chronic exposure resulted in significant alterations in their environmental fate and toxicological actions, thus complicating the accurate evaluation of ecological risks and constituting an unquantified threat to environmental safety.