Developmental toxicity and alteration of gene expression in zebrafish embryos exposed to PFOS

Xiongjie SHI, Yongbing DU, Paul K. S. LAM, Shiu Sun Rudolf WU, Bingsheng ZHOU

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

307 Citations (Scopus)


Perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) is a persistent organic pollutant, the potential toxicity of which is causing great concern. In the present study, we employed zebrafish embryos to investigate the developmental toxicity of this compound. Four-hour post-fertilization (hpf) zebrafish embryos were exposed to 0.1, 0.5, 1, 3 and 5 mg/L PFOS. Hatching was delayed and hatching rates as well as larval survivorship were significantly reduced after the embryos were exposed to 1, 3 and 5 mg/L PFOS until 132 hpf. The fry displayed gross developmental malformations, including epiboly deformities, hypopigmentation, yolk sac edema, tail and heart malformations and spinal curvature upon exposure to PFOS concentrations of 1 mg/L or greater. Growth (body length) was significantly reduced in the 3 and 5 mg/L PFOS-treated groups. To test whether developmental malformation was mediated via apoptosis, flow cytometry analysis of DNA content, acridine orange staining and TUNEL assay was used. These techniques indicated that more apoptotic cells were present in the PFOS-treated embryos than in the control embryos. Certain genes related to cell apoptosis, p53 and Bax, were both significantly up-regulated upon exposure to all the concentrations tested. In addition, we investigated the effects of PFOS on marker genes related to early thyroid development (hhex and pax8) and genes regulating the balance of androgens and estrogens (cyp19a and cyp19b). For thyroid development, the expression of hhex was significantly up-regulated at all concentrations tested, whereas pax8 expression was significantly up-regulated only upon exposure to lower concentrations of PFOS (0.1, 0.5, 1 mg/L). The expression of cyp19a and of cyp19b was significantly down-regulated at all exposure concentrations. The overall results indicated that zebrafish embryos constitute a reliable model for testing the developmental toxicity of PFOS, and the gene expression patterns in the embryos were able to reveal some potential mechanisms of developmental toxicity. Copyright © 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-32
JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jul 2008


Shi, X., Du, Y., Lam, P. K. S., Wu, R. S. S., & Zhou, B. (2008). Developmental toxicity and alteration of gene expression in zebrafish embryos exposed to PFOS. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, 230(1), 23-32. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2008.01.043


  • PFOS
  • Developmental toxicity
  • Gene expression
  • Apoptosis
  • Embryo
  • Zebrafish


Dive into the research topics of 'Developmental toxicity and alteration of gene expression in zebrafish embryos exposed to PFOS'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.