Response of gene expression in zebrafish exposed to pharmaceutical mixtures: Implications for environmental risk

Gabriela V Aguirre-Martínez, Helena C Reinardy, M Laura Martín-Díaz, Theodore B Henry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Complex mixtures of pharmaceutical chemicals in surface waters indicate potential for mixture effects in aquatic organisms. The objective of the present study was to evaluate whether effects on target gene expression and enzymatic activity of individual substances at environmentally relevant concentrations were additive when mixed. Expression of zebrafish cytochrome P4501A (cyp1a) and vitellogenin (vtg) genes as well as activity of ethoxyresorufin-O-deethylase (EROD) were analyzed after exposure (96h) to caffeine-Caf, ibuprofen-Ibu, and carbamazepine-Cbz (0.05 and 5µM), tamoxifen-Tmx (0.003 and 0.3µM), and after exposure to pharmaceutical mixtures (low mix: 0.05µM of Caf, Ibu, Cbz and 0.003µM of Tmx, and high mix: 5µM of Caf, Ibu, Cbz and 0.3µM of Tmx). Pharmaceuticals tested individually caused significant down regulation of both cyp1a and vtg, but EROD activity was not affected. Exposure to low mix did not cause a significant change in gene expression; however, the high mix caused significant up-regulation of cyp1a but did not affect vtg expression. Up-regulation of cyp1a was consistent with induction of EROD activity in larvae exposed to high mix. The complex mixture induced different responses than those observed by the individual substances. Additive toxicity was not supported, and results indicate the need to evaluate complex mixtures rather than models based on individual effects, since in environment drugs are not found in isolation and the effects of their mixtures is poorly understood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-479
Number of pages9
JournalEcotoxicology and Environmental Safety
Early online date28 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017


  • Actins/genetics
  • Animals
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP1A1/genetics
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian/drug effects
  • Gene Expression/drug effects
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations/chemistry
  • Risk Assessment
  • Up-Regulation
  • Vitellogenins/genetics
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical/chemistry
  • Zebrafish/embryology


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