Evaluating Phenotypic and Transcriptomic Responses Induced by Low-Level VOCs in Zebrafish: Benzene as an Example

Chia Chen Wu, Jessica R. Blount, Alex Haimbaugh, Samantha Heldman, Jeremiah N. Shields, Tracie R. Baker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Urban environments are plagued by complex mixtures of anthropogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as mixtures of benzene, toluene, ethylene, and xylene (BTEX). Sources of BTEX that drive human exposure include vehicle exhaust, industrial emissions, off-gassing of building material, as well as oil spillage and leakage. Among the BTEX mixture, benzene is the most volatile compound and has been linked to numerous adverse health outcomes. However, few studies have focused on the effects of low-level benzene on exposure during early development, which is a susceptible window when hematological, immune, metabolic, and detoxification systems are immature. In this study, we used zebrafish to conduct a VOC exposure model and evaluated phenotypic and transcriptomic responses following 0.1 and 1 ppm benzene exposure during the first five days of embryogenesis (n = 740 per treatment). The benzene body burden was 2 mg/kg in 1 ppm-exposed larval zebrafish pools and under the detection limit in 0.1 ppm-exposed fish. No observable phenotypic changes were found in both larvae except for significant skeletal deformities in 0.1 ppm-exposed fish (p = 0.01) compared with unexposed fish. Based on transcriptomic responses, 1 ppm benzene dysregulated genes that were implicated with the development of hematological system, and the regulation of oxidative stress response, fatty acid metabolism, immune system, and inflammatory response, including apob, nfkbiaa, serpinf1, foxa1, cyp2k6, and cyp2n13 from the cytochrome P450 gene family. Key genes including pik3c2b, pltp, and chia.2 were differentially expressed in both 1 and 0.1 ppm exposures. However, fewer transcriptomic changes were induced by 0.1 ppm compared with 1 ppm. Future studies are needed to determine if these transcriptomic responses during embryogenesis have long-term consequences at levels equal to or lower than 1 ppm.

Original languageEnglish
Article number351
JournalToxics
Volume10
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2022

Keywords

  • benzene
  • transcriptomics
  • volatile organic compounds
  • zebrafish

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