Role of neurexin2a in lead-induced locomotor defect in developing zebrafish


Low-dose chronic lead (Pb) exposure interferes with the development of the nervous system, which may lead to learning disabilities, behavioral abnormalities, and mental retardation. Neurexins (Nrxns) are synaptic cell-adhesion molecules associated with neurological disorders. We hypothesized that Pb can affect the expression of nrxns during synapse formation and alter the phenotype behavior. Here, apoptosis, nrxns mRNA expression, and alterations of locomotion were examined after exposure to Pb in zebrafish embryos/larvae. To confirm the function of nrxn2a, rescue experiments were performed using β-nrxn2a mRNA microinjection. Pb exposure increased apoptosis and altered locomotor behavior in zebrafish larvae. Quantitative PCR showed that among several synaptic adhesion molecules, only nrxn2a were affected by Pb exposure. Moreover, exposure to Pb at 10 μmol/L upregulated mRNA expression of nrxn1a and nrxn3a at 24 hours post fertilization (hpf) and downregulated expression at 48 hpf, whereas the expression remained unchanged at 72 hpf. Only the two isoforms of nrxn2a were downregulated by Pb at 10 μmol/L at all three time points. Rescue experiments showed that nrxn2ab mRNA injection recovered the decreased locomotor activity and the increased apoptosis induced by Pb. In addition, overexpression of β-nrxn2a mRNA upregulated α-nrxn2a. These data indicated that Pb inhibited the expression of nrxn2a genes, which play a critical role in neural development, and further altered the behavior of zebrafish embryos/larvae.