The psychoactive drug Escitalopram affects swimming behaviour and increases boldness in zebrafish (Danio rerio)
Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors are pharmaceuticals used to treat a range of psychological disorders. They are frequently found in surface waters in populated areas. In recent years, they have been shown to affect the behaviour of various aquatic organisms in a way that can have ecological effects. In this study, we exposed zebrafish of both sexes to nominally 0.00, 0.15 and 1.50 µg L−1 Escitalopram in flow-through tanks for three weeks. Subsequently, ten swimming behaviour parameters were quantified using high-resolution video tracking. There were noticeable gender differences in the behaviour responses to Escitalopram. Female fish exposed to 1.50 µg L−1 Escitalopram had a lower maximum swimming velocity, stopped less often and exhibited increased boldness (reduced thigmotaxis) compared to controls. Male fish exposed to 1.50 µg L−1 had a lower maximum swimming velocity compared to control fish. At the end of exposures, both length and weight of the females exposed to 1.50 µg L−1 Escitalopram were significantly less than the group of control fish. In addition, males exposed to 1.50 µg L−1 Escitalopram were significantly shorter than control fish. The behaviour, weight and body length of the fish exposed to nominally 0.15 µg L−1 was not significantly different from control fish in either sex. The results of this study demonstrate that Escitalopram can affect subtle but ecologically important aspects of fish behaviour and lends further credibility to the assumption that Escitalopram is an environmentally active pharmaceutical.
KeywordsPsychoactive drug SSRI Escitalopram Zebrafish Altered swimming behaviour Increased boldness
This work was supported by the Faculty of Science and Technology, Aarhus University, Denmark.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. The experiments were conducted in accordance with the guidelines by The Danish Animal Experiments Inspectorate (permission 2012-15-2934-00246).
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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