, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 165–180 | Cite as

Effects of dietary methylmercury on the zebrafish brain: histological, mitochondrial, and gene transcription analyses

  • Sébastien Cambier
  • Patrice Gonzalez
  • Nathalie Mesmer-Dudons
  • Daniel Brèthes
  • Masatake Fujimura
  • Jean-Paul BourdineaudEmail author


The neurotoxic compound methylmercury (MeHg) is a commonly encountered pollutant in the environment, and constitutes a hazard for wildlife and human health through fish consumption. To study the neurotoxic impact of MeHg on piscivorous fish, we contaminated the model fish species Danio rerio for 25 and 50 days with food containing 13.5 μg/g dry weight (dw) of MeHg (0.6 μg MeHg/fish/day), an environmentally relevant dose leading to brain mercury concentrations of 30 ± 4 μg of Hg g−1 (dw) after 25 days of exposure and 46 ± 7 μg of Hg g−1 (dw) after 50 days. Brain mitochondrial respiration was not modified by exposure to MeHg, contrary to what happens in skeletal muscles. A 6-fold increase in the expression of the sdh gene encoding the succinate dehydrogenase Fe/S protein subunit was detected in the contaminated brain after 50 days of exposure. An up regulation of 3 genes, atp2b3a, atp2b3b, and slc8a2b, encoding for calcium transporters was noticed after 25 days of exposure but the atp2b3a and atp2b3b were repressed and the slc8a2b gene expression returned to its basal level after 50 days, suggesting a perturbation of calcium homeostasis. After 50 days, we detected the up regulation of glial fibrillary acidic protein and glutathione S-transferase genes (gfap and gst), along with a repression of the glutathione peroxidase gene gpx1. These results match well with a MeHg-induced onset of oxidative stress and inflammation. A transmission electron microscopic observation confirmed an impairment of the optical tectum integrity, with a decrease of the nucleal area in contaminated granular cells compared to control cells, and a lower density of cells in the contaminated tissue. A potential functional significance of such changes observed in optical tectum when considering wild fish contaminated in their natural habitat might be an impaired vision and therefore a lowered adaptability to their environment.


Methylmercury Dietary exposure Zebrafish Bioenergetics Brain 



We thank Lindsay Hislop for correction of the English language.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sébastien Cambier
    • 1
  • Patrice Gonzalez
    • 1
  • Nathalie Mesmer-Dudons
    • 1
  • Daniel Brèthes
    • 2
  • Masatake Fujimura
    • 3
  • Jean-Paul Bourdineaud
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Arcachon Marine Station, UMR 5805, CNRSUniversité de BordeauxArcachonFrance
  2. 2.Institut de Biochimie et Génétique Cellulaires, UMR 5095, CNRSUniversité de BordeauxBordeaux CedexFrance
  3. 3.Pathology Section, Department of Basic Medical SciencesNational Institute for Minamata DiseaseMinamataJapan

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